Tag Archives: Crime

Law & Order: A Prayer of Confession

Most of us have much to say about the corruption and crime that are rampant in our society.  We are quick to point fingers at those in high places who are shown to be guilty; perhaps we point fingers too quickly.  We have allowed criminality to become subjective.  We think that those whose crimes are greater or worse than ours on some subjective scale of criminality are the real criminals.  Just the same, we think that the real threat to life and limb on our nation’s roads does not come from those who drive fast, but those who drive faster than we do or jump the traffic lights that much later.

Some Msunduzi residents were up in arms recently about a squad of traffic police that had started following up on unpaid traffic fines.  Those who were caught parroted the ancient cry: “Why me?  The cops should be targeting the real criminals.”  Unfortunately the subjective scale that is so clear to us, is not quite as obvious to law-enforcement agencies.

How can we hope to root out corruption in high places when each of us sees corruption and crime as something other people do? 

A Prayer

Lord, we are horrified by the corruption all around us;
The sins of the fathers are visited on the poor and vulnerable
in this generation and the next.
But such large crimes allow us to trivialise our own seeming small ones.
We are indignant when traffic police fine us for speeding
while real criminals run free.

Lord, we have allowed innocence and criminality to become relative;
It depends on the circumstances, we like to believe.
But for you, Lord, there is no innocence.
“There is no one who is righteous. No, not one.”

We are self centred and greedy; our love is timid and selective.
We are critical of others and forgiving of ourselves.
We fight for our rights, and ignore the rights of the most vulnerable.

You call us into sacrificial relationships; you ask, “How can I help?”
We build relationships to benefit us and our schemes;
We network for profit, and ask, “What’s in it for me?”

We don’t cause mayhem on our roads,
but we ignore the rules of the road when it suits us,
and we open the door for others to go that much faster,
to jump traffic lights that much later,
until no one knows what is too fast, or too late, until it is just that.

Lord, indeed, with you there is no innocence; we are truly all guilty.
Forgive us for the corruption and crime and poverty
in which we all share, and to which we all contribute.

In you alone are innocence, righteousness
and unconditional love to be found;
You alone have the right to point fingers and become indignant.
But instead, you took up a cross and absorbed the sin and sickness,
the pain and corruption;  you died to put an end to it all.

Only you didn’t, did you? You didn’t put an end to it
because you left us with freedom to choose.
We can journey with you through Lent to the cross;
We can watch you die there with the burden of our sin on your back,
And we can walk away and leave you there,
and try to believe that’s where the story ends.

But just because we don’t believe,
doesn’t mean that Easter never happened.
We can refuse to let the risen Christ touch our lives,
but he is still the Risen Christ, reaching out to us in love.

Lord give us the courage to face the truth of the resurrection;
to allow you to penetrate the cold and the dark within;
to bring warmth and light and freedom; to heal the brokenness,
and challenge us to a new way of living in the world, for the sake of all.


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Human Rights Day: Celebrating with Caution

Wednesday 21 March was Human Rights Day here in South Africa.  The date is significant because it commemorates the Sharpeville massacre on this day in 1960.   Sixty nine South Africans were killed in the struggle for human rights that finally culminated in democratic elections in 1994.

Are human rights more respected and more widely enjoyed than eighteen years ago, or 52 years ago?  No doubt one would receive different answers depending on those being asked.  There are some whose only concern is that their rights have diminished; others are concerned that human rights have not extended far enough or quickly enough; some are optimistic about the journey this young democracy is on; others are profoundly pessimistic about the downward spiral of corruption, poverty and crime that strangles our economic, political and social development.

Sharpeville itself erupted into violence and riot on the eve of Human Rights Day, or Sharpeville Day as they prefer to remember it.  Why?  Because the government chose to host the official Human Rights Day celebrations in Soweto, not Sharpeville.  For Sharpeville residents this day is a memorial service for their struggle heroes.  Of course this day and the heroism of the 69 belong to all South Africans (and the world) but our government does tend to display a profound insensitivity to the cries of the people they claim to represent.  The fact that the Sharpeville march was a PAC rather than an ANC-organised protest also muddies the waters, even now, 52 years later.

But there are things to celebrate, and things that should deeply disturb us as we look into our future.

Corruption is rife—no one denies it.  The debate as to whether it was worse under apartheid is irrelevant; it is rife and is fast becoming endemic.  Corruption, crime and poverty are intertwined in a spiralling dance of shame and fear.  Government ministers and officials speak passionately about rooting out corruption, but the only action we see is the hunting down of whistle blowers.

Having said that, I was encouraged by the lead story in our local newspaper on Human Rights Day.  The Supreme Court of Appeal has cleared the way for a legal challenge against the decision to drop corruption charges against President Zuma.  The High Court had originally said that the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority to drop charges could not be challenged.  Whatever the merits of the charges or the challenge, the fact that the decision could be made, and that it could be reported freely in the newspapers, gives hope for our fledgling democracy.

Lurking just beneath the surface however is the so-called Secrecy Bill (the Protection of State Information Bill) that threatens to become a shield behind which the government of the day might hide anything it finds inconvenient or embarrassing.  Not far behind is the threat to our courts in the form of a Cabinet decision to review the decisions and the powers of the Constitutional Court.  This because the courts have had the temerity to challenge government and organs of state when they act outside of the laws they themselves have helped write. Some in government believe they should be able to act with impunity outside the law simply because they are elected officials. 

There is less damage to the country and to a democracy when newspapers write with impunity and get things wrong than when Government acts with impunity and gets it wrong.  My prayer is that we may discover ways of working and living together so that next Human Rights Day we find more to celebrate and enjoy together than to fear.


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