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 CNS Story:

SAFRICA-PROBLEMS Aug-24-2012 (490 words) xxxi

Pretoria priests express concern about violence, urge life campaign

By Bronwen Dachs
Catholic News Service

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Six Pretoria-based priests and a doctor expressed concern that violence is becoming commonplace in South Africa and urged a campaign to re-emphasize the sanctity of human life.

"We can no longer hide behind our violent past, however true that may have been," they said, noting that until South Africa's first multiracial election in 1994, "most of the deaths of black people were linked to resistance against apartheid rule, yet today the violence happens in a country that has the best constitution in the world."

Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, former member of Parliament and mayor of Tshwane who now heads South Africa's Moral Regeneration Movement, was among the signers.

In an Aug. 23 statement, the priests warned that the violence at a platinum mine in Marikana captured the country's imagination because of its magnitude.

At the Marikana mine, 34 people died and 78 were injured Aug. 16 when police opened fire on striking miners who, armed with machetes and homemade spears, were gathered on a rocky outcrop at the mine. Another 10 people, including two policemen, had already been killed in violence at the mine since the start of an illegal strike a week earlier.

"It is remarkable to note the manner in which the public sector and organs of civil society have spontaneously responded to the Marikana saga," the Pretoria group said, noting that this shows that "good will could once again restore the greatness of our country."

The government "has admitted that unemployment, especially among the youth, is a huge problem," the statement said, noting that linked to this "is the worsening social distance between the government and the masses of people."

At the same time, religious leaders in South Africa's Western Cape province warned that rampant corruption fuels violence in the country.

"With half the population living in poverty and millions still without jobs, housing, electricity, adequate sanitation and medical care, the human cost of corruption is widely felt," said an Aug. 22 statement by the Western Cape Religious Leaders' Forum, including Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.

The "sound moral and ethical standards found in our constitution are being compromised and abused," they said, noting that "the corrupt pursuit of money and power is threatening our democracy and robbing the poor of their basic needs and opportunities."

The leaders said the poor communities they serve have told them how corruption fuels their frustrations.

"We heard of the ways in which our common rules are unevenly applied and of shameful levels of service delivery due to incompetence and misuse of public resources," they said.

Among its effects, corruption "causes communities to lose faith in the democratic system and leads some to violence (burning schools, clinics, libraries), which only compounds their suffering and delays service delivery," the leaders said.

"While their anger is understandable, such violence is counterproductive and wrong," they said.


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