Mkhuleko Hlengwa MP
I convey my heartiest greetings to Reverend Nkosi Khanyile and Mrs Khanyile, the leadership collective of Queensburgh Congregational Church, the Youth leadership of QCC, My Mothers and Fathers in Christ, My Brothers and Sisters in Christ; I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
I am deeply humbled and particularly blessed to be afforded this opportunity to gather with you today in prayer. I warmly welcomed the invitation extended to me because I firmly believe that there is power and progress in prayer. South Africa needs prayer. South Africa needs hope.
Before I delve into the business of the day, allow me to express a concern which keeps me wide awake at night, inducing in me a deep worry and an agonising anxiety. Over the past 21 years of South Africa's free and democratic dispensation we have seen a lot of gains which give us pride as a nation.
And on the other hand we have seen a lot happen which is contrary to our dreams as a nation, much to the detriment of hope and national pride. My deep rooted concern, worry and anxiety is brought to life by the silence of the Church on all matters of our nation.
We need to be a nation in prayer. We must thank God for what we have and must seek His intervention when our democracy and freedom go astray, and when our leaders are found wanting.
Where is the church when corruption rears its ugly head? Where is the church when xenophobia pits us against one another? Where is the church when crime hits hardest at women and children? Generally, where is the church when laws are passed? Why is the church silent when so much is going wrong?
We must take up collective ownership of our discourse and embrace the ideals and principles of an active citizenry. The role of the church did not cease to be relevant when democracy materialised in 1994, as much as the struggle did not end in 1994.
The struggle for a better, prosperous and developing South Africa is a daily struggle and the role of the church in this regard must be a daily reality.
I therefore boldly challenge the church to stand up and be counted at this time; to take up its position as an agent of hope in times of crisis.
Pray for our country. Pray for our Parliament. Challenge our leadership to pursue moral integrity. The church must emerge as the voice of reason.
Our Parliament has lost its dignity and decorum and no longer enjoys the confidence of our people. If Parliament collapses, where will our people turn to? What remains when we lose control of Parliament?
Surely it cannot be that after a long battle for freedom which spans centuries, we will allow the gains of that freedom to collapse without corrective action, particularly the intervention of the church.
Whilst the theatrics of Parliament may be entertaining and amusingly dramatic, they are in no way progressive or helpful.
I put a challenge today to the church to mediate and bring about cooperation of both sides of the House, not with a view to align their policies but rather to restore the notion of "let us agree to disagree without being disagreeable". The church must guide Parliament towards the understanding that we are not enemies. We are all friends of progress and development, who just happen to disagree on how to get there.
It is no longer a matter of who is right or wrong, it is now a matter of putting South Africa first; on both sides, by all of us.
In a world that is forever changing and rapidly globalising, the church must keep up with the change; not to conform but to guide the change process.
We are gathered here today to celebrate the successes of our brothers and sisters in education. We are here to celebrate education because we are keenly aware that for South Africa to progress towards prosperity we need to be an educated nation. We are here today to give praise to God, thanking Him for His love and grace over all those who have embraced education for the sake of progress.
Education remains a timeless cornerstone for the development of a people and the progress of a nation.
We are here today because we fully subscribe to the notion that "it takes a village (community) to raise a child"; we have a role to play. The church has a role to play.
Education and unemployment rank very high in our current struggle and therefore the importance of quality education cannot be overemphasised enough as it is key and central to the development of South Africa.
We are gathered here today, on the one hand to celebrate in prayer the successes of education, but on the other hand because we are genuinely, correctly and rightly concerned about the future of our country and importantly because we are prepared to do something about it.
We are gathered here today because we want to bring the struggle and educational aspirations of the youth of 1976 roaring back to life.
We are not into the blame game. We are solution providers.
We are mindful that learners have a right to learn and we will make sure that they do learn. We are adamant that teachers have a duty to teach, and we will make sure that they do teach. That is the role of a responsible community, and closer to home that is the hallmark of a responsible church.
We must reach out, and extend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate and dignify them through the provision of study guides, uniform and food to make the difficult pursuit of education more bearable and walkable.
Where schools in our immediate communities fall short, the church must walk the rest of the distance.
If each congregation adopted a poor and struggling school, we would make progress. Rome was not built in a day; South Africa will not be built in 21 years. All of us must put our shoulders to the wheel.
If each congregant volunteered their time towards tutoring or offering their time for other help we would make progress.
If all of us adopted a learner, we would make progress.
Look around, and solve what you can and strengthen that which is working; in that way we will make progress.
Let us not throw financial solutions to non-financial problems; not every problem needs money. Some problems need men and women of conviction, courage and altruism to give of their time and themselves. After all, Jesus Christ our Lord gave of himself. His life is worthy to emulate. Let us make our own progress.
There is wisdom in the words of late former US President John F. Kennedy who said "Ask not what your country will do for you, but what can you do for your country."
I plead that we all do something for education because we cannot in good faith celebrate islands of educational success in a sea of apparent challenges and shortcomings.
In 2012 the following was revealed:
. 446 schools needed buildings to replace mud constructions or wood prefabricated and metal structures,
. 514 schools were without sanitation and needed basic toilets,
. 714 schools needed electricity,
. 1069 schools were without access to water,
. 4050 schools had no sports facilities,
. 13617 schools were without computer centres,
. 14989 schools had no libraries,
. 15368 schools required multipurpose rooms,
. 15435 schools did not have nutrition centres,
. 16516 schools were operating without administration blocks and,
. 18258 schools did not have laboratories.
These alarming figures paint a grim picture about the plight of education in South Africa, which on a serious note require us to intervene together. The church has a contribution to make in this regard. Build a library. Sponsor a laboratory. One step at a time, together.
Yes politics has divided us, but let us find unity in education.
I am encouraged by the constructive activism of the youth of Queensburgh Congregational Church who recognise that they must be part of South Africa's lasting solution to the endemic and widespread social ills - in the form of alcohol and drug abuse, crime, poverty - of the country. I believe that we cannot begin to change South Africa if we do not change our attitudes and contribution to suit our dreams. Ours is to strengthen the weak, not weaken the strong, because we are a generation of progress and agents of change.
The clarion call made in Matthew 5:16 that ". let y(our) light shine before others, so that they may see y(our) good works and give glory to y(our) Father who is in heaven." should motivate us into action. It is a challenge the church dare not fail to match.
God bless you. God bless South Africa!
MKHULEKO HLENGWA MP
IFPYB National Chairperson
076 521 3221