This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
27 Jan 1992: Motolla, Emanuel
POM. Mr Motolla, you were talking about a couple of things that I find very interesting. One was you say the Zionist Church is an African church and you talk about the role of chanting as a means of bringing people together.
EM. That is true. Chanting is part and parcel of African character, more so that whoever comes from an individual ethnic group always has their traditional way of entertainment. Now the Church normally accommodates such things but the church somehow feels that the effort taken in chanting of any other type of nature, of any other African type of tribe, can be utilised in a Christian way because the chanting can always be coupled with, say, hymns, they can be coupled with some songs coined by whoever is an expert in music and as long as these songs are there to praise the Lord so the church felt the efforts taken in chanting from the traditional point of view can be utilised and again be turned into something relevant for praising the Lord.
POM. You were saying how the church draws its membership from across ethnic groups and from across political ideologies. Can you tell me how that works and what you see as the emerging role of the church as a healer, as a unifier of the country?
EM. Number one, the church has discovered that what really destroyed the life of man in this part of the country is basically a recessive type of drink and this has destroyed many families, this has destroyed great men, this has destroyed whoever could have had some potential for some good leadership in his own part of the country. Secondly, we've got minor things such as smoking and so on, and the church started by condemning this aspect of the story. Not just by condemning that but they devise some means of healing which is in the form of a prayer and this really helped a lot of people, so much that most of our people started looking at what they have done before and later on the families that were broken, later on were unified and people had to go on and lead a normal life and people of all ideologies, people of all the tribes, people of all the ethnic groupings, realised later on that the direction taken by the church is that building up family units is nothing but a starting point of the future for that type of life in this country. And the other thing is that the church's own neutrality was very, very important in the sense we discovered that it is composed of people from all ideologies through the whole political spectrum, so much that it was important that even if these people differ in their ideologies outside the church precincts it was very, very important that when they come in they must know that they belong to the Lord, they even belong to their own country and the only way to solve their problems would be in a peaceful way so as to discover the permanent peaceful solution rather than a temporary one where the conflict would continue and civil war continue going on. So basically the sermons of the Bishop are such that they are based on the common norms of the society where life must be maintained, where peace must be maintained, and the two will obviously bring the country into peace and tranquillity.
POM. Now what is the attraction of your church for Africans over more traditional Christian religions?
EM. The attraction is quite large. It is quite large in the sense that people have to have themselves recognised and they would like their culture to be maintained at all times and when they looked at the western types of churches they felt there is a lot that they missed because the tradition and the culture of the person is so deeply embedded in his scheme that when he has to divorce that one it is the same as destroying himself. So the church accommodated these cultures, the church accommodated everything but made sure that whatever is being accommodated is now utilised and directed towards Christianity.
POM. You also talked earlier about the emphasis the church puts on education. Is this on educating young people or on getting them to finish High School and matriculate? Does it have specific programmes?
EM. Yes, we have introduced a lot of specific programmes, I mean projects, in educating the populace in our church. The main purpose of this is to bring our people and at the same time to update them on the future of the country where some people are going to have some say in the next government that they must also be part and parcel of the whole decision-making body. And the other thing is that without education there's definitely nothing that our people in the church can go and contribute and that is why we resorted to getting some bursary for our children and we have established the bursary that will cater for primary school children, high school children, technicons and even universities, and this is normally done according to merit and we always make sure that we are able to cover our own church members through all the provinces of the country so that there must be some fair type of dealing that will normally be accepted within the rest of the Church membership.
. Secondly, in the country I think we've got a very, very high degree of illiteracy. We felt we've got to have the literacy campaign also serving under our Bursary Board and this literacy campaign is particularly on the adults. We've got several centres in the country and at the moment we've got 135, that's adult centres, where we normally cater for men and women, not only academically but otherwise we get into some types of education where they may be able to make their own skills such as bricklaying, such as carpentry and many other types of jobs.
POM. I think since I talked to you the last time, which would have been, I think, in July of 1990, there has been an awful lot of violence in the townships, particularly in the Transvaal, which must have on occasion pitted members who belong to Inkatha and who are members of your church against members who belong to the ANC. Does the church ever try to play any kind of mediating role in bringing the violence or tension down in townships or things like that?
EM. Yes the church has played a very, very big role in this case, especially because if we have the ANC members being killed or Inkatha members being killed, or any other member of any other political organisation, at the end of the day the church will lose its own membership because its membership runs through the whole spectrum. What the church normally does is we hold our church meetings in different parts of the country where we mix our church members within the whole spectrum, where we finally emphasise the destruction the country might face because of the violence of this nature. And fortunately there has been a very, very great improvement within the spectrum.