African Cardinal Blames Socialism for Corruption

Thursday, 29 Oct 2009 07:39 AM

By Edward Pentin

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A top African cardinal blames government corruption in Africa mostly on socialism.

Speaking to Newsmax at the end of a three-week Vatican synod on Africa last week, Cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier, the archbishop of Durban, said Africa’s traditions such as those of tribal chiefs could be partly to blame for government corruption but that “it has much more to do with the socialist ideology.”

Poor governance has more “to do with the influence of socialism and communism, where the party becomes supreme,” Napier said.

In contrast to such regimes, he said the traditional system of tribal chiefs is more democratic. Chiefs “are seen to have almost divine right to their position, but the chiefs exercise it, I would say, quite democratically because they have their councillors who would have quite an influence on the way the chiefs would behave towards their people.”

Many African countries developed their own brand of socialism in the 1960s, as it represented a break from colonization and imperial ruling tradition. African identity and socialism then became an effective combination in ending the era of old imperial regimes. South Africa’s ruling ANC party played a role in the African socialist movement.

But most socialist African regimes did not deliver on the promises of self-sufficiency, prosperity, and equality, leading to growing disillusionment with socialism on the continent. Some socialist leaders, such as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, were lauded for fostering peace, but economically, he brought Tanzania to its knees.

Cardinal Napier welcomed the fact that the 244 bishops at the synod debated issues of governance, and that many African church leaders reported improvements in democracy on the continent. However, he said dictatorships often are replaced with ruling parties that believe they had a right to rule indefinitely.

“Whereas we had presidents in the past for life, now we have parties considering themselves to be in power for life,” he said. “We’re already seeing that in our South African situation where the governing party calls itself the ‘ruling party’ — an indication that they have a right to tell people how to live or how they want to run the country rather than listening to what the people are saying and the way they want the country run.”

This has become one of the great concerns in Africa, creating an atmosphere in which “people as individuals, or in this case parties, start identifying themselves with the state,” the cardinal said. The challenge for the church and others, he said, is to educate people “so they understand they have a right to tell their government how they want their country run because they are electing them to do the people’s will, not the party’s will.”

Napier, who has been touted for some years as a possible candidate for the papacy, said electing an African Pope is possible, but that such a choice depends more on abilities than birthplace.

During the most recent papal election in 2005, he stressed, “the furthest thing from our minds was where the Pope should come from.” The important factors are the candidate’s awareness of the church’s situation in the world and a clear vision of how the church should respond to the world’s challenges, he said.

“If there are cardinals in Africa who have those qualities, I hope people would look in their direction,” he said. “That’s what I would expect anyway.”

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