Office of the Chief Whip
Claims around Parliamentary inter-faith event malicious
2 November 2012
The allegations levelled against the Chief Whip of the ANC in Parliament by some opposition parties that he used the parliamentary Conference on Nation Building through Social Dialogue with the religious sector for “his own political agenda” are malicious and without basis.
The malicious claims that the parliamentary inter-faith event turned into an ANC rally stems from the following perceptions relating to the event:
Firstly, it is unheard of that attendees of parliamentary and government events must neither be dressed in their political party gear nor sing revolutionary songs. Members of the public have always worn the gear of their choices, including those with colours of their parties, and chanted political slogans at parliamentary and government-organised events such as People’s Assembly, Youth Day and Women’s Day. This does not make those events ‘ANC rallies’. Those who make these claims must come out and clearly state if they wished to criminalise political slogans or wearing party colours at such events.
Secondly, it is absurd that interfaith event should be branded a party rally merely because of the remarks of the ANC Chief Whip. It is ironic that those who have anointed themselves advocates of freedom of speech would wish to prescribe to others what they should or should not say on public platforms.
Thirdly, the event was organised by the multi-party Parliamentary Interfaith Committee (PIC) – a committee that was established by the resolution of the House two years ago. The parties that have complained about not being invited enjoy significant representation in that committee, and were party to the preparatory meetings for this event. The responsibility therefore rested with those party members to take their parties on board and encourage them to support and attend the event. If these party’s representatives slept on the job, showed little interest in the affairs of or are ignorant of the programmes of the committee, such cannot be blamed on the parties that do the opposite.
The conference – which was jointly hosted by the PIC and the National Interfaith Council of SA and was attended by over 400 delegates representing various faith-based organisations across the country – was in recognition of the important role the interfaith movement plays in the resolution of conflicts, creation of peace, nation building and development.
The hosting of this conference by Parliament augured well for the institution’s activist character, at the centre of which is the advancement of people-centred programmes that are responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people. Its objectives included partnering with religious communities in pursuit of nation-building and social cohesion for the creation of a stable and prosperous society.
We commend MPs from parties such as the ANC and the ACDP for participating in this important event.
It is a sad day that the integrity of this successful event with such noble objectives is being tarnished by petty and unnecessary political squabbling.
ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF THE ANC CHIEF WHIP