Johannesburg – Just three days after he had an audience raising the roof when he unpacked the Constitution at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was back in the township, eliciting the same response from a church gathering when he quoted extensively from the Bible.
Mogoeng was at United Apostolic Faith Mission Church (UAFC) in Dube, Soweto, last Wednesday, at the invitation of the Soweto Ministers Fraternal (SMF), a coterie of the clergy in the township who had asked him to speak to them about “healing the brokenness of our nation’s past”.
In his introduction, an elderly clergyman had appropriated the saying that “when Soweto sneezes, the whole nation catches the cold”. Mogoeng concurred that “healing starts in Soweto”.
The next day he took the same message on healing to the Vaal. His message struck at the conscience of the church:
“I thought I was going to avoid quoting from Ezekiel 34, verse2 and 3, but I did not succeed and it reads…”
The verse spoke to the voracious appetite of the shepherd – the church leaders, who fed and clothed themselves ahead of the flock.
“Clearly God has had it with the people of South Africa,” Mogoeng, a lay pastor in his church, challenges.
He displayed the same familiarity with the Bible as he does with the Constitution. He spoke of the indignity of suffering dehuminisation – the same way his maternal grandfather had at the hands of the police, younger men, who shoved him into the back of the van as the younger Mogoeng watched.
He told of another dehumanizing act which involved his own father addressing a farmer as ‘Baas’ despite desperate plea for him not to do so.
“I was deeply disturbed. Traumatised. I got sicker,” says Mogoeng, looking back.
But he acknowledges the mental damage suffered by his father and his ilk.
His father apologised.
“He told me ‘this thing is deep. It is rooted in my mind.’ There’s a lot of mental damage out there. Who commits the rapes? Men. Dehumanised men. The overwhelming majority are those whose dignity was impaired.”
We’re suffering, the Chief Justice says, from such ills as racism, tribalism and others. When there are problems in a marriage, we blame it on the ethnicity of the spouse, he says.
“We are sick from the mental damage. We suffer from poverty. Whenever there’s money you must look at us. There was never a systematic plan [to prepare us for life after freedom].
“So, we need to humble ourselves, and seek the face of God. Then God will hear us. Once He has heard our prayers, He will then heal our land.”
He lambasted the so-called men of God.
It was not a sin for the children of God to be rich. It was the how that it is in question. Freely you receive; freely you give, he advised.
At the receiving end of such greed, people leave church, to fall into drug addiction, prostitution and other vices. He came down hard on false prophesis.
We condone the habits of thieves and the corrupt among us because they are the highest tithers, the Chief Justice says, hastily referring to the Bible to seek a remedy.
“Nathan. We need more of him.
”The church must speak out against injustice and corruption. Be like Elisha.”
Once people get to “know you’re not a man or woman of integrity, they will treat you anyhow,” he warns.
“We want to rewrite the Bible to do un-Godly things. We compromise ourselves to be politically correct.”
He condemned adultery, committed by church elders on those they lead, and the stingy attitude that precludes Christians from tithing.
In closing, he prayed up a storm.
Bishop Musa Sono, head of the Grace Bible Church, was in the audience. He said: “God has raised him to speak in an unusual way. I like that he challenges the church to introspect. He is someone unafraid to speak out. Definitely on God’s plan and calendar, he is playing a major role in the life of the country. The church must be present where there’s lack. We need more of such sessions.”
Veteran actor Kid Mabutho Sithole, a staunch Methodist, said the message from the Chief Justice couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
“Most of us want to be politically correct. We do not want to point out at wrongs. The shift from the ‘We to the I’ is central. If you are weak, anybody can take you for granted. Christians had Ascension Day before 1994. It disappeared now. The Christian community must stand up; it is at its weakest now. The task is too much for a David; it needs all of us.”