In the press this week it seems that the chickens are coming home to roost for British PR firm Bell Pottinger. You will know that this company which acted for the Gupta family proposed a controversial and divisive PR strategy, stoking racial tensions in South Africa in order to direct attention away from their clients. There has been an angry reaction in the media from South Africans and a co-ordinated social media protest resulted in BP’s Twitter account being closed to public access – pretty much unprecedented for a PR firm!
Pleased as we are that this behaviour has now been officially condemned, it does seem that BP touched a nerve for us and the reason we were so angry is that in amongst all the fake news and dodgy press statements were some grains of truth. Notwithstanding all the euphoria in 1994, we remain a nation divided and there are many bridges still to be built. The challenge is whether each of us will continue to be intentional in building bridges, in seeking to understand, and in doing the hard work of peacemaking.
This morning I’m taking part in a circuit service in Maphumulo – about 50km north of Umhlali in rural KZN, just off the road between Stanger and Greytown. Our Bishop is joining us to consecrate a beautiful new church building – the previous one had become far too small to accommodate the Maphumulo congregation. As we ask for God’s blessing on this new church today, we are also standing with the Methodist people in Maphumulo who have worked exceptionally hard to fund this project. Many of the members of this church are pensioners whose only source of income is a minimal government pension. I’m looking forward to celebrating and affirming what our people have accomplished together.
It’s impossible to travel from Ballito to Maphumulo without being very aware that we are living in two different worlds. That is the divided society that BP aimed to exploit. This morning we have a chance to strengthen relationships as we celebrate together. And if you’re reading this at the 7am service, you still have to time join me – we leave at 8 :)
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