Lord, the current president of South Africa has exhorted his fellow citizens to pray for him along with the other leaders in our country.
He made the appeal for prayer during his Easter address to a group of Christians from the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
Of course, you receive the prayers of all your people, so we know that Mr Zuma will enjoy the entreaties on his behalf of all people of faith. Maybe the desires for this country’s government, on the part of those who eschew a belief in anyone who lives on the clouds, might also ascend to your sphere.
I have my head in the clouds and so I pray continuously for all people, including our leaders. But in that last phrase lies the nub of a problem. Because Mr Zuma is not my leader. I did not vote for him, directly, at any time. His party, which you know I voted for many times, chose him to be our deputy president and, later, president, a flaw in our constitution Lord, we must correct sooner rather than later. I acknowledge his authority and that his prescripts have huge implications for me. But that doesn’t make him my leader. It’s petty, I know, that while I acknowledge Mr Zuma is the president, I cannot give him the honorific. I do not accept the legitimacy of his leadership. He is a liar and a thief, a charlatan and an abuser (even if he has not been convicted in a court of law on any charge), a bully and a despot.
You remember, Lord, during apartheid your faithful people faced the same conundrum of having to pray for their racist oppressors who led the government of the day. And among our country’s best theological minds across the religious spectrum – albeit there was significant pushback from conservative and compliant religious figures like those who now may find a spiritual home in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – grew a consensus that, yes we would pray for those in positions of authority in Parliament and the Union buildings. But we would pray as well for our (true) leaders, the ones in exile, in prison and on the streets of our country. And so we asked you to bless our leaders, to give them courage, along with wisdom and understanding in the decisions they must make. Of course, Lord, some of us today – I confess I am one of these – wish that we had added a rider to our prayer for our leaders then, including Mr Zuma, that you should bless them as long as they remained faithful to the call to serve our people which they had accepted in the cruel, dark, disgusting days of apartheid. In the event that they broke their covenant with you and with us, then the rider would kick in and you would be enabled to take back your blessing, and we, our support. That is what we should have asked of you before democracy. Then we would, perhaps, not have been praying so fearfully today.
But, Lord, there is also a tendency today among some who profess a Christian faith, to hold all Christians, maybe even all South Africans, accountable for our “sins”. I could never have thought that some would be so ignorant, arrogantly so. They take their cue from that verse in the holy bible: “If my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.” Lord, I know we dealt with this victim-shaming decades ago, but there it is again; apparently it’s the fault of the people of this land, it is because of our sin, that our “leaders” act so appallingly badly and against our interests, that we are a country which has gone from hero to zero, from gold standard to junk status.
It is because I must accept that Mr Zuma is in authority over me, that I pray for him now as I am exhorted to do:
Disturb him, Lord.
Bring him into direct contact with honourable men and women, not sycophantic types like those he currently consorts with, but people who will speak truthfully to him, tell him about the crises he has consciously or misguidedly led our country into, tell him how he has promoted the culture of corruption, theft & misappropriation of state resources, how his ANC has become a cesspool of greed and party- or self-enrichment
Convict Mr Zuma of his sin, that he may turn away from his evil words and deeds.
Do not harm him, Lord, keep him safe so that he may come before our Parliament and our courts to answer the various charges that have been brought against him. Before Parliament he faces the charge uttered by the highest court in our land, that he has acted against the will of our people, against our Constitution, sold out our country. In the criminal courts he already faces 783 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering.
Disturb those of his relatives who are complicit in his abhorrent and dishonorable deeds, who have benefited hugely from the illicit patronage connections with the Guptas.
Strengthen those members of his family who are in no way culpable with Mr Zuma, that they may speak with honour and persuade him to turn from his wicked ways.
Prepare him and his family even now for removal of the largesse, predominantly ill-gotten from state coffers or those seeking a cozy, beneficial relationship with political leaders, even though there is a perception even among our people that Mr Zuma is entitled to these “benefits”.
Lord, Mr Zuma is not the only one who has failed this country. There are thousands of so-called leaders, black and white, in public and private sectors, mainly men but not exclusively so, who have exhibited the most appalling antithesis of ethical or servant leadership; who have milked this country dry for their own ends, paying slave wages while raking in billions of rands; who act neither with fairness nor with mercy, but whose actions have had the effect of killing the spirit if not the biological existence of millions, relegating them to lives of begging because of unemployment, squalor and deprivation; whose actions have shut the door on basic human rights; who dismiss the founding principles of our democratic state like non-racialism and non-sexism, equality, respect for individual dignity, transparency and accountability.
But when Mr Zuma is removed, Lord, when he returns ill-gotten gain, when he is punished for his crimes, when he has repented of his sin, it will send a strong message to others who walk in his shadow, with pretensions to be our leaders. So, I pray that your Justice may be swift. Our country has suffered long enough. Bring to an end Mr Zuma’s dispotic, disdainful rule.
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.