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Source: The Presidency
Title: Zuma: Anniversary celebrations of Bantu Church of
Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma at the 90th anniversary
celebrations of the Bantu Church of Christ, New Brighton, Port
Your Grace, Bishop John Bolana,
I am honoured to be with you today, to share this wonderful
occasion with an institution that has been part of our history for
so many decades.
It is even more special to celebrate this 90th anniversary of the
Bantu Church of Christ while still surrounded by the wonderful
spirit of Christmas.
Another celebratory spirit in our hearts is that of the First
Decade of Freedom and Democracy. This makes 2004 a real year of
celebration and of praising our Maker for all these
This celebration today makes us look back many decades in the
history of our country, as we trace our beginnings as a formerly
oppressed people. The Bantu Church of Christ came into being in
1914, during the early stages of Christianity in its Western sense
in our country. Indigenous people had had their own belief systems,
which they had been practising for centuries.
You would also recall that Christianity was initially introduced to
us hidden under a colonial cloak or partly if not mainly used as an
instrument for subjugation of the African people. Many Africans
therefore associated Christianity with the mission to subjugate and
But fortunately, the Church was never a monolithic structure, and
there were always church leaders and missionaries who were on the
side of the truth and therefore on the side of the oppressed even
during those early days. It is through their contribution that the
Christian faith was able to take root and grow in our
The Christian faith also grew due to the visionary leadership of
Christians such as the founder of the Bantu Church of Christ,
Bishop James Ngcanjini Limba for his foresight and leadership, in
seeking to link Christianity with his African roots.
The history of the Bantu Church of Christ is therefore interrelated
to the history of African people's struggle to liberate themselves
from oppression and ideological subjugation.
The formation of the Bantu Church of Christ in 1914 was a rejection
of the colonial feature by some of the mainstream churches, and
provided a message that was resonant with the dominant feelings of
the people at the time, the African independent and growing spirit
of Africanism mainly in our country.
It is for this reason that we viewed this occasion as important for
us to be present today, to acknowledge the role of this church in
the struggle for liberation, and the role you continue to play in
fostering nation building in particular and in other African
Independent Churches throughout the country in general.
In celebrating 90 years of this church, we also in part acknowledge
the critical contribution of the African Independent Churches which
emerged in the early 20th Century.
The philosophy of the African Independent Churches has always been
part of the African liberation philosophy. Right from their
inception, they played a crucial role in promoting a religious
philosophy that was based on sound African value systems.
The pioneers of the African Independent Churches include Moses
Mangena Mokane, founder of Ethiopian Church, Isaiah Shembe, founder
of the Church of Nazareth of Shembe Church, James Dwane, founder of
the Order of Ethiopia and Nehamiah Tile, founder of the Thembu
Brothers and sisters, in celebrating 90 years of this church, and
ten years of freedom in our country, we also recall the suppression
of the independent churches by the oppressive regime in the last
It is important to note and underline this particular point because
it is not usually highlighted that oppression in our country was
total. It was political, economic, social and spiritual. That is
why we referred to it as national oppression.
In doing all of this to us Europeans wanted to recreate Africa
after their own image, not after the image of God. In that process
they were brutal, ruthless and merciless. You would remember the
members of The Church of God and Saints of Christ who were
ruthlessly mowed down by the forces of the Smuts Government in what
is known as the Bulhoek Massacre of 1921.
Their leader Enoch Mgijima had to serve 5 years in prison, when he
refused to move members of his church from their land and the place
of worship at Ntabelanga near Queenstown. This is just one of many
This resistance to oppressive laws by the Church did not end there
it continued in the decades that followed, where many courageous
church leaders took a stand against oppression.
I am giving you this background so that you know that this
government understands the often neglected and marginalized history
of the African Independent Churches, and that we understand the
role that they have played in the past and continue to play
I must emphasise that our government and the ruling party are not
strangers to Christian or Religious values and beliefs. Today's
celebration in fact also affords us an opportunity to highlight and
underpin the positive role that progressive Christians played
within the ANC, and generally in the struggle to liberate this
This goes back to the originator of the idea to found the African
National Congress (ANC) in 1912, Pixley ka Isaka Seme who was an
ordained priest who has studied theology in the United States
before qualifying as a lawyer.
Other leaders in the early 20th Century, who were staunch believers
in the Lord, Jesus Christ, were for example John "Mafukuzela" Dube,
the first President of the ANC from 1912 to 1919, and of course
Reverend Makgatho, the second ANC President, who was a founder of
one of the early African Independent Churches, the United National
In their own way, all these Church leaders made an important
contribution in terms of redefining what it meant to be an African
and a Christian at the same time and what it still means today to
be Christian or religious and African at the same time.
In other words, we did not have to become some false Europeans in
order to be real Christians or do away with our being
From as early as 1919, key leaders from the African Independent
Churches such as Reverend Makgatho were preaching about equality
and the right to human dignity.
In their own way, all these church leaders contributed vastly in
terms of redefining what it meant to be an African and a Christian
at the same time, within the context of an African
Your Grace, Bishop Bolana, ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate 90
successful years of the Bantu Church of Christ, we cannot avoid
looking ahead into what role the church should continue to play in
the reconstruction and development of the country in particular and
in the African continent in general.
The message of the Christian faith is fundamentally about the
upholding of values of justice, equality, peace, respect of human
rights, prosperity and goodwill towards all people.
We rely on the church to lead communities in working to strengthen
families and communities, to build a strong foundation for a caring
Our country has just completed marking the 16 Days of Activism of
No Violence against Women and Child Abuse.
We urge the religious sector to continue this campaign, working in
partnership with government and other sectors, to highlight this
scourge and work towards its eradication from our society.
The church, as partners with government in the Moral Regeneration
Movement, also need to continue to play a critical role in ensuring
that the moral values of ubuntu such as respect for human life, and
respect for each other are inculcated, especially among our
We also see a key role for the church to continue playing in
alleviating the suffering caused by terminal diseases, especially
HIV and AIDS. Across the country every day, we are encouraged to
see the churches and religious people and leaders alike taking care
of the aged, nursing the sick, feeding and clothing the poor and
orphans especially HIV and AIDS orphans.
We greatly applaud, and appreciate these selfless efforts by the
church, for they inspire the nation to greater moral heights. This
is what moral regeneration is all about. As you are a direct
product of the struggle for justice, freedom, peace and good value
system let us join hands in the struggle for the spiritual
reconstruction and development of our society.
Brothers and sisters, thank you for inviting me to share this
service with you. We wish you all the best in continuing with the
work of the Lord.
We rejoice with you as you celebrate the 90th Anniversary of this
remarkable church. May the Lord Bless you as you continue with your
mission to build a church that is rooted in preaching the true
gospel of justice, peace and support for the poor and vulnerable in
We trust that we will continue working together to build a better
life for all in our country.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
27 December 2004
Edited by: Shona Kohler Creamer Media Research Associate