Monday, July 28, 2008

Can Christians Be Politicians?

We thrashed out a number of election strategies for the ACDP over the weekend, with a teamwork and strategy workshop for the KZN provincial executive councils (PEC's). It was a productive weekend where we highlighted a wide set of areas we can work on in the party, including more affirmation of those who are doing a good but unseen job, and more in-depth discussion on emotionally sensitive topics.

One very interesting view was the apparent clash of Christian values and political strategy. For instance, should we be blowing our own trumpet? The Bible seems fairly clear in suggesting that "the right hand should not know what the left is doing", but if you work hard behind the scenes, will people vote for you? When we were manning an ACDP stall at Pietermaritzburg's Royal Show, we had people coming and saying: where have you been all these years? What!? We've been working hard, running our administration, planning for the elections, etc, etc. But it hasn't been visible.

In the same way, we've had to admit that if you want to get into the media, you have to be controversial. You have to grab the headlines with outrageous statements and actions that grab people's attention. It seems like a nice, well-rounded media release that makes perfect sense is not good enough - you have to exaggerate, use strong words and be "larger than life".

This has led to the suggestion that we should be leaving our Christian principles in church and walk a different talk in the political realm. I beg to differ.

The political arena is notorious: it attracts powermongers and thieves and it quite rightly aggravates the public. Not only that, but the worldwide voting audience are instinctively critical, and no administration passes unscathed beneath the vengeful eyes of a public who will remember your one failure more than your ten successes. This forces political parties to take a short term view and to make promises that will win an election rather than preserve long-term good. Frankly, the word "politician" has quite rightly earned the personal application of a cattle branding iron across one's forehead.

I believe that Christian values are exactly what are needed to transform politics. Honesty means telling the public what they need to hear and not what pleases them. Personal responsibility means acknowledging failure instead of pouring out weak excuses that further discredit yourself among the discerners. Fear of God is what keeps you on the straight and narrow when nobody is watching. To suggest that we shed aspects of good Christianity along the way is what will rob us from being the very solution that our country needs.

Having said that, politics does give us the opportunity to re-evaluate church practices. For instance, to say that prayer is the answer for everything might be seen as a Christian principle, but the Bible imparts personal responsibility for action in addition to prayer (see the book of James). Perhaps if we look more closely at the Bible, we'll find that all the qualities needed to win an election are well prescribed. Perhaps we just need to work harder, improve our strategies, stop blaming our failures on our Christianity and do exactly what the Bible recommends: step out in faith ... and prayer helps too!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's Time to Pray: Get the Prayer Newsletter

Because the ACDP is very much a Christian party, we do believe strongly in the importance of prayer and we believe that our prayers do make a difference with things that are seen and unseen. And like most churches, we know that we need to pray even more than what we do.

In my role as the prayer coordinator for KZN, we are setting up a number of prayer meetings around the province. It helps that the ACDP is something of a neutral agent that can help to bring churches together across the denominations, and we all share the same desire: to see our country come right and set on the right path.

If you're interested, I coordinate a monthly email prayer newsletter which highlights important prayer matters. Additionally, our involvement in the key decision making processes of the country gives us "inside info" into urgent prayer needs like bills that are about to be passed through.

If you would to receive this prayer letter, send a request to Also, if you would like to assist in organising regional prayer functions, even just for your area, please contact me as well. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eskom Report Confirms Failure of BEE

Independent Online published the findings of a new Eskom report investigating the reasons for Eskom's failures. Of course with any such report you have to ask yourself on what authority the reasoning is done. Just because a recommendation is made or blame is laid doesn't somehow stamp finality on it. We still need to examine the logic used and the evidence presented.

BEE is a hot issue, and my experiences with blogs that discuss these topics has shown that the discussion can get distinctly race-based. While an unfortunate side effect of apartheid is that we're still tolerating race-based legislation, for one group to want zero bias when they had benefited from previous bias leaves you sitting uncomfortably.

Frankly, we're all well aware that apartheid prejudiced the development of certain race groups and that there is a backlog to make up - what really sets the views apart is how we move forward from here.

The key issue I want to address here is skills development - the very crux of BEE, its engine room. And here is exactly where BEE has failed. While BEE has been used to enrich some black sections of the population, that really is the sideshow. The idea was that giving someone an important role, ahead of schedule, would give them the opportunity to grow into that role and learn a skill needed for that role. Now how do you learn that skill? Where do you get it from and who teaches it to you?

There are three main forms of skills acquisition in industry: study for a degree or diploma, do personal research through books or internet surfing, or learn skills in apprenticeship. When I say "apprenticeship", I refer to any role where you work under someone for a while and then take over when you are ready. If you have any business or industry experience, you'll know that this is probably the leading form of skills development. And yet, that system is bypassed by BEE.

There are two results of the BEE system. Firstly, the ones who need to learn the skills are in authority over the ones they need to learn the skills from. But who ever wants to learn from a junior? It rarely works in practice. Secondly, those who do have the skills and have now been shunted pack up their bags and leave, and take their skills with them - there is no transfer. Eskom will testify that this has happened, and several departments like Public Works are experiencing exactly the same.

The end result is huge. Very little skills development results in badly run business, failed projects and bankruptcy. BEE benefactors are placed in senior positions, companies struggle, and the very people that should have been enriched are now in failing operations and bearing the brunt of criticism.

Let's paint a different scenario. Those without skills go through the proper apprenticeship process and when they are ready they are promoted and get a good new salary. The business stays strong. The former BEE benefactors do get the promotion, in the longer term, and when they do, they carry out their function in a sustainable business.

Simply put, BEE is short term and apprenticeship is there for the long term. No surprise then that BEE has benefitted a few but leaves the majority short. For this reason, the ACDP believes it is time for the sunset clause on BEE, so that the very objectives of BEE can be attained: skills development, leading to long-term, sustainable wealth. The 10 year turnaround that the ANC envisaged was never realistic and it's time to recognise that the South African skills problem needs a longer term solution that promises less and achieves more.

The IOL report can be read at:

DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: