Posted on 36 Comments

State of the Nation (South Africa): A Pastor’s Response

To listen to the audio teaching click on

Since January 2015 I’ve had a growing number of people expressing serious concern over the state of our nation, asking: how must we respond as Christians? The chaotic Opening of Parliament on 12 February has increased the volume of concern. Some want to emigrate. As a pastor I feel pressed to respond by giving our local church some (biblical) perspective and guidance. This is a big issue to address in one talk; hence this headline overview.

I’m a pale-male middle-class South African, fully aware of the (historical) baggage that it represents. But that doesn’t disqualify me from addressing this issue. Besides, to do a little ‘foolish boasting’ as Paul did (2Cor 12:1f), I spent 12 years involved in Soweto working in the name of Jesus for justice and reconciliation (1983–1995), repenting from my racist conditioning and putting my body on the line, taking a strong stand against Apartheid. My book Doing Reconciliation tells the story, with the biblical theology and praxis, of those years. Since 1994 I’ve continued to take a consistent prophetic stance for reconciliation and righteousness in society, in our body politic, without fear or favour.  Continue reading State of the Nation (South Africa): A Pastor’s Response

Posted on Leave a comment

Mandela’s First Anniversary of his Death

This morning I woke and when I checked the headline news on my cellphone I saw this link (below) of Johnny Clegg’s tribute to Mandela. He has republished the song he wrote for Madiba in 1987, when Nelson Mandela was still in prison and his picture was banned from publication in SA (since 1964). Listening to the song this morning was as emotional for my wife and I as it was when we first heard (and saw) him perform it in 1987 at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg, under the State of Emergency of the Apartheid regime.

At that time we took our little reconciliation group called “Johweto” (a symbolic joining and reconciling of Johannesburg and Soweto), of black and white South Africans, to listen to Johnny Clegg and Savuka (his band). It was an incredibly powerful experience, climaxing in the first performance of Asimbonanga. I remember: we stood as he sang and tears streamed down our faces in hope of Mandela’s release, in hope of a changed South Africa, in hope of freedom, healing, reconciliation and justice. Listening to the song again this morning, with the next generation (teenage girls) singing with Clegg, was equally emotional and brought back a flood of memories. And also pain.

Johnny’s message in the republished song is clear and simple: the work of Mandela, of healing, of justice and reconciliation, of rebuilding a nation of peace and shared resources, with genuine dignity for all, is still to be done. And the next generation has to pick it up and take it further.

The tragedy is that the wounds of our nation have been healed superficially (despite the good work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission), that by all accounts racism across all ‘colour groups’ is on the rise, and that we seem to be forgetting our history, both the true darkness of Apartheid and the miraculous change in our nation by God’s grace and mercy. And of course, not to mention the ANC under Jacob Zuma, which has not only betrayed, but flaunted the legacy of Mandela in their behavioural practices while paying lip service to it’s lofty values. The (evil) spirit of entitlement and greed reigns: “It’s our time to eat” (in the words of the courageous Kenyan whistle blower, The ANC has become corrupt from the top down: arrogant, unaccountable and self-protecting – especially of Zuma and his corrupt appointees who protect him. It’s reaching dangerous levels of a ‘tipping point’ of a downward spiral as has happened with other nations north of our border. I know that this is incredibly emotive but look at the nations north of our border and see what naked greed and corruption (‘doing whatever it takes to stay in power for self enrichment’) does t0 a nation… Continue reading Mandela’s First Anniversary of his Death

Posted on Leave a comment

Tribute to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – A Personal Anecdote

I’ve been watching Nelson Mandela’s memorial service today. Very moving. Almost 100 heads of state and dignitaries – some say the largest funeral in history! And it’s been pouring with rain since early morning. It’s still raining now at the end of the service – as if nature itself has been gently weeping, mirroring our mourning of Madiba, the father (‘Tata’) of our new democratic nation, South Africa. But in African (and Biblical) culture, rain is a sign of blessing, a promise of new life. May it be!

Tata Mandela will be sorely missed. We, this nation, and this world, will miss his reconciling presence, stately leadership and moral authority. God, in his sovereign design in our time of greatest historical need, raised up Madiba to bring about liberating reconciliation and justice – a shining light to all people and nations on planet earth. Extraordinary people like Mandela only come along once in a couple of centuries. Not that he was a saint; he himself freely admitted to his flaws and failures! (We must be careful of Mandela-worship as time passes) He’s known for saying “I’m a sinner. I’ve made many mistakes. I only pretend to be a saint when I’m among people!” As a South African, I feel so honoured and privileged to have lived in his life-time, to have lived through the miraculous change that we have experienced.

I never met Madiba – only saw him from a distance in a meeting – but there’s a story that lives with me, that has inspired me for years. Continue reading Tribute to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – A Personal Anecdote