A group of religious leaders have roped in former president Jacob Zuma to lead a prayer campaign “against crime as an enemy of the economy” and to help improve race relations between black and Indian people in the province.
Zuma is the only person who can help bridge the gap between Indian and black people in KwaZulu-Natal, the National Interfaith Council of South Africa (Nicsa) said.
The former president who was forced to resign in February will be leading the mission and will be joined by leaders from Rastafari, Hindi, Shembe and Khoisan religious groupings, among others, to pray against crime. Some of these religious leaders have shared the stage with Zuma as he appeared in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on corruption charges.
A planned campaign tour is expected to have two stops: the first on July 7 and focusing on communities around Chartsworth, Isipingo, Wentworth and Umlazi. The second stop, which takes place the following week, will target Phoenix, Verulam, Tongaat, Inanda and KwaMashu.
In a poster distributed widely, Nicsa calls on residents to join the “road show for nation building [in] prayer against crime and crime as an enemy of the economy”.
Nicsa provincial secretary Bishop Timothy Ngcobo told News24 the council had approached Zuma because of his “great knowledge” of the Indian community.
“Mr Zuma is a person who knows the background of Indians, coloureds and the black people. We need that history because we see that the Indian community is like an island now,” said Ngcobo.
He said the council approached the former leader hoping he could use his free time to help their cause.
There has been on ongoing debate in the country over race relations between black people and Indians following comments by EFF leaders, with party leader Julius Malema insisting that most Indians are racist.
Ngcobo said the religious council had asked for Zuma’s assistance because “he is a person with plenty of time and is available”.
“Mr Zuma can catch the hearts of all these races. He is someone with experience. He has experience with Mahatma Gandhi and people of many backgrounds,” explained Ngcobo.
Zuma has been accused by some within his party, the ANC, of using religious leaders in an attempt to start a breakaway party ahead of the 2019 elections. He has denied the claims, saying he would never leave the 106-year-old liberation movement.
Ngcobo said those who believed their campaign had to do with a plot to form a splinter party were confusing it with the support Zuma has received from religious leaders, some politicians and ordinary people when he goes to court for his corruption charges.
“Mr Zuma never asked anybody to support him,” said Ngcobo.
Another church leader, Bishop Bernard Coopasamy, said it was important to highlight that the Indian community was also affected by crime in KwaZulu-Natal, which he said was regarded as “little India”.
“There has been a lot of crime happening here, which has gone unnoticed by the government, therefore we are starting the roadshow where different faiths can come together and pray.”