As millions of Christians celebrated Easter this past weekend, their celebrations were interrupted by events in South Africa and Zimbabwe that reinforced the relevance of the message of Easter for the stability of this region. The two events were the murder of Eugene Terblanche, leader of a right wing white group in South Africa, by two of his employees, and the visit to Zimbabwe by the ANC youth leader Julius Malema.
Terblanche's right wing group consists of less than 1% of Afrikaaners (Boers) and had become almost redundant. However, Terblanche's death came at a time of rising racial tensions triggered by the singing in public by the ANC youth league of an ANC liberation song "Dubul' ibhunu," which means "shoot the Boer." A court application was made to ban the singing of this song as it was against the spirit of democracy and had the potential to fuel racial tensions. A court ruling was issued that banned the singing of the song. However, the ANC decided to challenge the court ruling because they felt that they had the right to sing their songs.
Malema was even more defiant and vowed to sing the song even if it meant defying the court order. The death of Terblanche in this context merely fueled the already existing racial tensions. President Zuma called for calm. This is something South Africa cannot afford, not only because of the hosting of the World Cup, but more importantly because it represents a betrayal of their values embodied by Mandela. They need an "Easter moment."
Malema visited Zimbabwe and praised the government for their land and economic policies which he felt were good examples for South Africa in spite of their failure in Zim. In a surprising move Malema castigated ZANU (PF) for their use of violence in elections and offered to teach them how to win elections peacefully through ideology not violence. He also dismissed the opposition party and refused to engage with them. It is perplexing because as mediators between the two parties in Zim, South Africa must be unbiased. It feels like a "Judas" moment -- a betrayal of the principles of democracy and unbiased mediation. These events happened during Easter, to remind Christians that Judas' action did not stop the resurrection and the plan of God to reconcile people to God and to each other. Therefore the Easter message in the context of these events is for Christians to be reconcilors and ministers of justice and peace. Pray with us too!
Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.