Uphold Morals - Zuma
Henri Du Plessis
Christians should stand up and oppose moral degeneration and challenge government decisions that led to it, said Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
He was speaking at the inaugural Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture instituted by the Western Cape Province Council of Churches.
Zuma said if Christians were afraid of politicians and the media and failed to oppose morally corrupt practices, they would have failed Christian leaders like Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who had set an example.
South Africa had to develop a child-centred morality and create a society where children were safe and cared for, he said.
Zuma's call for opposition to moral degeneration came as his name was frequently mentioned in the Durban High Court trial of his close friend Schabir Shaik, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption involving the arms deal.
Yesterday, a former secretary of French arms company Thint testified about a coded fax in which the company was allegedly asked to pay a bribe to Zuma.
But during his speech, Zuma appeared relaxed and self-assured, intensely concerned with the subject of his lecture.
He blasted material such as photographs of nudity and violence in the print media and violence and open sex in television programmes and said that South Africans could not expect their children not to act violently or immorally if this sort of material entered their homes every day.
"The excuse people give is that such and such a film has an age restriction. This is more of an invitation for children to try and watch it without their parents knowing," he said.
"People can call me a backward politician and out of touch with today, I don't mind.
"I want to ask Christians, where are you? Even when parliament passes a law, where are you to oppose it if it is not right?"
Zuma said the liberation struggle was prevented from turning into a struggle of hatred and revenge by the contribution of the moral conscience of the progressive religious fraternity.
"The fact that many within the ANC, from its inception, had been staunch believers, also assisted in giving the struggle a firm ethical grounding."
He listed Oliver Tambo and Chief Albert Luthuli as among the ANC leaders who had also been devout Christians.
Zuma suggested that South Africans adopted the attitude of "any child is my child" in the fight against HIV and Aids, by caring for Aids orphans.
He said the religious sector, particularly the Christian community, had contributed immensely to building a society which emphasised healing, reconciliation and nation building.
With acknowledgements to Henri Du Plessis and the Cape Argus.