Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Bishop Rubin Philip's Sermon at the Marikana Massacre Memorial Service

Bishop Rubin Philip
Marikana Massacre Memorial Service
Friday, 24th August 2012, Emmanuel Cathedral, Durban
And so, again, the truth of our country is in dead black bodies littering the ground. Once again, the truth of our time is that people asserting their rights and dignity against systemic injustice have been brought down in a hail of bullets. Has nothing changed in our place, when its truth remains that the armed might of the state acts for the elite of powerful and wealthy, and against our people? No self-righteous declarations of 'tragedy'; no insisting on 'complexity'; no obfuscatory 'commissions of enquiry'; are enough to hide that truth. The truth is plain to masses of the people of South Africa, it is an affront to God.

We are very angry indeed. We have been instructed that this is not the time to point fingers, but that would be a grave and sinful mistake friends. We have reached this new low, 18 years into our democracy, precisely because of all those who have closed their eyes to the truth that has been there all along; because of all those too timid to point fingers and expose evil; because of all those who have not and will not stand, with God, on the side of the struggles of the least of our brothers and sisters.

The coverage of the massacre that we saw on our TV screens was traumatic and shocking but, in too many ways, it has also been a long time coming. The sheer number of dead as well as the clinical execution of the police' task team surely marks a terrrible escalation, but the underlying violence is nothing new to the many poor and oppressed across the country who have often faced the contemptuous indifference of our politicians and the iron fist of our police when they organise to protest the injustices that still scar our society. That scandalously small number of us from more privileged classes who have stood with the people in their actions, and have visited them in prison after their marches, and have learned the truth of our situation in their discussions - we have also known and warned it would come to this. So far, all our collective warnings seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps Marikana will open more eyes and ears before things get even worse.

And things do seem to be getting worse! In the name of 'economic growth', post-apartheid South Africa is being steered to secure benefits for a few while inequality reaches new and unprecented levels. In the name of the defense of a 'democratic order', post-apartheid policing has been re-militarised in ways not seen since height of apartheid's repressive war against people's power. The truth that is emerging from independent research and eye-witness acounts strongly suggests that Marikana was no 'tragedy', no unfortunate aberration. In the wake of Marikana, too many people have rightly called for reconciliation and harmony but why at the expense of decisive solidarity on the side of the people?; too many too easily plead for 'better trained' police when what is necessary is to end the monopoly of state-violence that the rich and powerful can deploy against the masses of the people.

In the name of God, will all good people join me in this small declaration today?

To the powerful in the state, in business, and in the armed forces, we declare:

* the police will no longer shoot, hurt, silence or intimidate our brothers and sisters when they struggle for justice;
* we no longer accept an economy that creates obscene wealth for a few on the backs of exploited and abused workers.

To the poor and the workers we declare:

*do not stop struggling for justice, we are with you;
*carry on defending the fundamental humanity and dignity of every single human being.

Bishop Rubin Phillip
Anglican Bishop of Natal (KwaZulu-Natal)
24th August 2012.