AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA – The Bishops: “No to violence, but it is urgent to tackle the inequalities that feed it”

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Johannesburg – Approximately 36 billion rand have been allocated by the government of South Africa to support businesses and people affected by the restrictions related to Covid-19 and above all by the unrest that has upset different areas of the country in recent weeks.
The South African economy, already severely hit by the restrictions to curb the pandemic, has suffered a severe blow from the looting that broke out following the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma, accused of corruption and embezzlement of public funds. The protests by his supporters have escalated into vandalism and raids, which have affected hundreds of shops, supermarkets, shopping centers and petrol stations in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. More than 300 people lost their lives in the clashes. The South African Bishops, in a statement, “condemn in strong terms the glaring criminal elements that are taking advantage of this situation”. “We – the prelates write – call upon individuals who are involved in vandalism and thuggery to give a thought to the livelihood of many people that they are jeopardising by destroying their places of employment. We must also remember that we are in the height of Covid-19 pandemic that thrives in the conditions of disorder that we see, and that the longer these conditions prevail, the more we put ourselves and others in danger of infection that will be difficult to deal with”. Invoking the path of dialogue, the Bishops denounce the fact that “our society has normalized the use of violence and vandalism to get the government to listen and be serious in addressing economic concerns of the poor”. “We need a shift in mind-set, a collective conversion of heart and mind, which affirms that violent protests and destruction of property can never be a just response to the current economic hardships and economic injustice. We reiterate Pope Francis’ call in Fratelli Tutti, reminding all that: in face of political and economic problems there is always a possibility of choosing constructive engagement over violence”.
His Exc. Mgr. Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, in a note, however, saw signs of hope “even in the dreadful looting and destruction that we witnessed recently in South Africa, there followed an outpouring of goodness as people turned out to clean up, to guard sensitive areas and to seek answers for and understanding of what had taken place”. They are seeds of hope that must be cultivated together “with people who ask to identify and address the root causes of violence and to recognize the for the injustices of the inequality and poverty of our country to be recognized”, concludes Mgr. Brislin.