Minister takes justice services to the church

Addressing more than 3000 congregants at the Rhema United Christian Church in Southern Wood, Mthatha, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe said that church leaders played a fundamental role during the apartheid regime and urged the congregants to continue doing so.

Engaging the audience in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape on the role of the church in the fight for freedom on 24 November, the minister gave an example of some of the church leaders who are still alive and continued with contextualising the Christian faith through social and economic responsibility such as the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Reverend Allan Boesak, Reverend Ray McCauley and Reverend Frank Chikane.

“I say all of this so that as we enter such premises, we should not be assumed to be strangers to the Christian faith. It has been fellow activists in the struggle against apartheid who taught us that the Christian faith, communists and other belief systems were not antagonistic to the justice that many of our people fought for and for which some paid the ultimate price,” said Minister Radebe.

“For this very same reason, we consider it important that the right to matters of religion, conscience, belief and culture should be boldly enshrined in the Constitution, because we deemed these to be in furtherance of the text and spirit of the Constitution as a whole,” he further gave context.

According to the minister, it is the responsibility of the department to safeguard and promote the values enshrined in the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.  He added that there is no doubt that the Constitution and the laws formulated from it are not the exclusive property of government, but for the people as a whole, hence their fulfilment requires concerted efforts. “Crime is one of the most serious threats to the values entailed in the Constitution that guarantees human dignity as it directly impacts on the essence of our livelihood,” said Minister Radebe.

He applauded the initiative by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, saying that he has demonstrated willingness to ensure speedy justice in courts and further cautioning his colleagues in the judiciary that “the days of hiding under the overall statistics of others with regards to performances when individuals are perpetually postponing cases, are over.”

“One of the main problems facing our people is the escalating rate of sexual violence against women and children. As the department, we have launched Thuthuzela Care Centres around the country, to ensure that not only are these cases adjudicated speedily and fairly, but also that those who are victims of such abuses do not undergo secondary victimisation as they go about seeking redress in our courts,” said Minister Radebe.

Recently, the minister opened the Sexual Offences Court in Butterworth which is part of the 57 courts identified for upgrading to fit the model that will effectively deal with these cases. A week after the launch, a serial rapist and killer Bulelani Mabhayi, who mercilessly murdered over 23 elderly women and children at Tholeni Village, was sentenced in that court to 25 life terms. According to Minister Radebe, this is evidence of an effective justice system.  

He urged women in churches to be in the forefront in confronting women abuse through mutual support of victims, “just like the Good Samaritan did to the Jew who was a total stranger,” and the church as a whole can help defeat this practise where women are seen as prey to rape and assault.

Senior Pastor and founder of the Rhema United Christian Church, Pastor Don Phillips warmly welcomed the minister to the church.


By Mokgethwa Ngoepe

Published: 27 November 2013