- Parish and Church
A statement by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
It is widely accepted that the matter of land ownership in South Africa calls for urgent attention. The consultations conducted throughout the land have evoked and are evoking strong feelings which cannot be ignored or simply brushed away. A nerve with strong historical roots and which cries out for healing and the restoration of justice, has been touched.
Based on Biblical teaching (1) and further developed by the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church, we affirm that the land is meant for all the peoples of the earth and is held by us in a sacred trust. There is no such thing as the absolute ownership of land. (2) Human Beings are always at the centre of our social and economic life. It is a matter of human and divine justice that people have access to the land and that it be equitably distributed. In this perspective, priority has to be given to the poor and the landless. (3)
To ignore these fundamental realities is to invite a backlash that can only be harmful to all the citizens of our land.
The framing of the debate in terms only of the expropriation of the land without compensation is at best only the beginning of the process, at worst the opening of a Pandora’s box. There is no easy or simple solution to this vexed matter. In order to appreciate the complexity of the matter we have only to consider the following facts amongst others:
the magnitude of the demand for land; the shortage of land in sought-after urban areas; concurrent claims to the same land; the problem of long and drawn-out litigation; the reality and danger of corruption in the process; the limited capacity of the State in dealing with the whole process – cf. the present backlog… And so, the list continues…
It is no exaggeration to say that the present situation calls for a great leap of creativity. At this crucial time in our history we have to make this leap.
In urgently seeking a creative response we need to broaden the conversation beyond that simply of expropriation without compensation. (4) Amongst the many factors that have to be taken into account, are the following:
the unacceptable gap between the rich and the poor; a pervasive greed both old and new – a stubborn holding on to and a relentless pursuit of privilege; the collapse of the rural economy and the influx of people into our cities; the involvement of Traditional Leaders and security of land tenure; the productivity of the land; the building of capacity and access to markets; a destructive and dehumanizing consumerism; …. etc.
We affirm the need at all times for the following: respect for human life and human dignity; a democracy at the service of the common good; transparent and incorruptible leadership; responsible dialogue; non-violence; respect for the Constitution and the judicial process; practical wisdom and the rejection of populism…etc.
Both old and new ideas must be revived and re-imagined, as for example: the publication of successful models of shared ownership; the active encouragement, development and incentivization of such models; the generous involvement of civil society and business; renewed economic decentralization and the revival of rural areas; the opening up of marketing bodies; support for socially responsible entrepreneurial initiatives; the encouragement of voluntary initiatives and the promotion of simple and selfless lifestyles…etc. These examples only serve to highlight the urgent need for new creativity in the conversation around land and the other factors of production.
We the Bishops of the Catholic Church, maintain that these and other broad human and divine values are imperative. To ignore these would be dangerously irresponsible, morally unacceptable and harmful to human persons and the common good. Our call is addressed not only to our own Catholic leaders and communities but also to all people of goodwill who are passionately concerned to see a true and just flourishing of our Beloved Country – and indeed of the whole Southern African region and further afield.
At this critical time and recalling the best of decisions leading up to 1994, we believe we are once again called to respond to the critical challenge of this time. Guided by the noblest of human values and divine truths we pledge ourselves to be a part of this creative process.
President Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Archbishop William Slattery OFM
Archbishop of Pretoria and Spokesperson for the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference
+ 27 83 468 5473
Pope Francis in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, quotes Pope John Paul II as follows “The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.’”
The event was organised by the Department of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees, Bienvenu Shelter, the Department of Justice and Peace, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa.
Mass was celebrated by the episcopal vicar for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees, Fr Pablo Valesquez and Fr Thabo Motshegwa. They were assisted by deacons Raymond Oupa Matseke and Philippe Lukusa-Lumpunga.
Wishing to drive home the importance of the four pillars that Pope Francis speaks of in his 104th letter for the World Day of Refugees, he enlisted the help of children to help dress a teddy-bear. This was aimed at welcoming, protection, promotion and integration of refugees.
Fr Pablo drew parallels between St John the Baptist and refugees in that John was regarded as an outcast, was persecuted, jailed and even killed.
Robinson Sathakge from the City of Johannesburg said as South Africans, we need to understand the push and pull factors that drive refugees to flee their native countries and the challenges they go through. He encouraged South Africans to understand, embrace, welcome and protect them until their issues are resolved. “Together with organisations like Pastoral Care, the City host events, dialogues and promote social cohesion in communities,” he said.
Water is a scarce natural resource which should be preserved, not only for human beings, but for vegetation and wildlife as well. On 4 May, the Justice and Peace Department, together with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and members of Palm Spring’s Section A cleaned a stream coursing through the area.
The stream was assessed for safety and depth. DWS donated rubber boots, masks and rubber gloves. Equipped with their own picks, shovels, spades, wheelbarrows and hoes, the community got down to business.
To build an environment that is clean, liveable, beautiful and conducive to health, everybody has to play their part, said the committee. They noted that illegal dumping is exacerbated by non-collection of waste by the municipality. Some of this waste unfortunately ends up in streams.
During weeks in which weeks waste bins were not collected, households had elected to bring them to a common area where they are taken to a landfill site to be emptied.
Because the stream crosses areas, the task team has committed to creating awareness in neighbouring areas as some of this waste streams into their area.
Tebello Rampo, a Justice and Peace volunteer who champions for an end to pollution, said when the church introduces something, it is important that they include the community. The community will, in turn, embrace the initiative and be responsible for it.