March 13, 2010

Verryn in Solidarity with the poor and working people of Zimbabwe

Filed under: manifesto,Uncategorized — newritings @ 8:14 pm
martin niemoller

solidarity man -Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller

( first written in end January 2010)

The all night prayer vigil said it all. People do care about people who do good, and they will not allow the politics of opportunism to derail their belief that good people need to be supported.

Over last weekend a dozen odd friends of Paul Verryn’s met to discuss the hatchet job that was being perpetrated against the bishop, from various quarters, from within and outside the church. We met to organize and speak out against the gross injustices that is being orchestrated, and tell the media and public at large that the issue is not the Bishop but the lack of help for the refugees, the poor and the homeless in Joburg and the other cities.

IN 2006 I wrote a letter to The Star, lamenting the quality of journalism especially when it came to the marginalized and poor. IN this case, I specifically referred to the case of the Central Methodist Church and its work with the refugees, most but not all from Zimbabwe.

Then I complained that the journalists were fighting the victims and letting Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF off lightly. I will review some of the media coverage and conclude that the media, in general have failed to see the big picture for a long time, and have allowed not only their comrade Bob to get away with rape and murder but they have also let our provincial and local governments get away with gross scape-goating.

I then suggested after the article that I was responding to, I suspected that stories of sex and money will be forthcoming. I am sorry to say that 3 years on, this has happened. Media speculation and innuendo, used by some journalists have presented the bishop in a bad light implying some strange complicity of the Bishop in the survival actions of some refugees.

The media have also failed to fully consider that “warts and all”that this small church in the heart of the city of Gold is almost the only refuge for homeless persons – foreigners and national. Importantly, the media have ignored the City’s recent commitment to cleaning up Joburg, which ruthless means dealing with “foreigners”, who are seen to be a sore to the eyes for our beloved tourist visitors to the African 2010 Fifa World Cup.

All in all,the media in the main have failed to cover the crisis around the Methodist church beyond the quick sound-bites, which do not give a full picture of the history of the refugee and poverty crisis in the inner city, and in south Africa in general. They omit basic facts that would inform us that this crisis is not new and that there is a long history of attempted engagements with the various governmental authorities, including the Human Rights Commission to find humane solutions to the problems of refugees. It ignores the gallant support role the church played in the xenophobic attacks of May 2009, where over 60 persons died, a third of them from South Africa, the remaining from Zimbabwe.

Let us talk about the clean up, if I know of at least 10 buildings in and around Joburg Central with many hundreds more people living inside them, run variously by independent committees to slumlords, (both new and old and with legal papers or without). So why pick on one bishop and one church?

Simply put because Bishop Paul Verryn stands between them and their vision of a Joburg which will have no place for poor, and working class people. It is worse if they are foreign as well. We must not allow this vision of a city that will spend R45million (believed to be about double that according to the Mail and Guardian ( to host world beauty queens parade which in the language of trickle down economics “will affect the city’s economic landscape and bring positive spin-offs for Joburghers”[i] but peanuts on helping to house –inside the city – homeless and the poor.

The concluding message to those who support the work of the bishop is this: continue to work for justice for refugees, the working people and the poor. Expose policies and practices that `ferment xenophobia. Expose elite collusion to rid the city of the poor. If 2010 is to be the year of the African Football World Cup,  make a living space for poor Africans from South Africa and those fleeing repression. Instead of victimizing the victims we must stand in solidarity with the Bishop and those who work for justice. In our endeavours  must heed the message that what the bishop represents is that of solidarity, and it is now time to give the bishop what he gave others.  I am reminded of Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) who in his poem, on solidarity speaks much about the work that Paul and his mission does. To end, it goes like this:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out.

By sheer coincidence, the various unions that I have worked for over the years (NUMSA and SAMWU) amongst others, played a critical role in mobilisng public opinion on the side of the work that the bishop does.

SA MUNICIPAL WORKERS UNION: Press release: Support for Rev. Paul Verryn – 29 Jan 2010.

SAMWU Supports Paul Verryn and the Struggle Against Xenophobia.

29th January 2010.

SAMWU has carefully noted the suspension of Paul Verryn, until recently a Methodist Bishop and the manager of the Methodist Community Centre in Johannesburg. It also notes the charges that have been laid against him by some of his seniors in the Methodist Church.

We wholeheartedly condemn the scurrilous way the mass media has allowed itself to repeat old and discredited slurs from the past in an attempt to further besmirch the name and actions of this man of the cloth. Early reports of the involvement of the security services in this episode are very alarming, and must be investigated.

We share the view of the Legal Resources Centre and others, that the two ‘charges’ against him are without substance, and should be immediately withdrawn and apologies offered.

Anyone who has spent even a short time in the company of Paul Verryn will know that he is an intelligent, passionate and yet profoundly humble human being. He does not seek headlines or conflict of any type. He does however want to see change. In fact, throughout all of his working life he has tried to make life bearable for those who have been without hope.

This Union believes that Paul Verryn is being victimised because his example is a threat to the complacency and the absence of compassion in both church and civil authorities. They should be ashamed of their actions.

The presence of large numbers of Zimbabwean refugees in the centre of Johannesburg cannot be spirited away into nothingness by injunctions from those who feel that their businesses are being hampered . Nor can the City of Joburg, with the help of expensive and completely unnecessary police raids, intimidate the refugees into thin air.

What is needed now is a reality check by the church and civil authorities.

The reality is that South Africa now hosts thousands of destitute refugees because our Government under President Mbeki doggedly pursued an ineffective policy in relation to the brutality of the Mugabe regime. Many Zimbabweans were left with no choice but to walk to safety and try and find another place where they might care for their families. To make matters worse, refugees continue to be mercilessly exploited by employers and landlords, and have been maliciously treated by certain xenophobic sections of the police and community.

It has been easy for the Joburg City Council and others to criticise the conditions at the Methodist Church Centre. It is overcrowded, it has at times probably presented a serious health risk, and the everyday happenings on our streets of violence and anti-social behaviour have no doubt had their reflection inside the Centre from time to time.

Rather than persecuting Paul Verryn, why are the civil and church authorities not addressing this issue? Why are they not seeking a way forward based on humane and lasting solutions? This is not a time for blaming others, but acknowledging that the migration of labour in our globalised and exploited continent is a harsh and undeniable fact of life. Simply raising barbed wire fences will not work. We are all refugees to some degree. Each of us is where we are today because someone in our families searched for a better life.

The selfless activity of Paul Verryn is a reminder that we can create a better world, and one free of greed and despair. We must stand up and reject the simplistic solutions of the so-called free market, the xenophobes and those who cannot see further than their own noses.

We call upon the Joburg City Council, Home Affairs and the leadership of the Methodist Church to create the conditions for a real and creative dialogue on how best we can ensure that everyone in this city, and indeed South Africa, whether a refugee or a longer term resident, is able to live decently. Paul Verryn should be placed at the centre of these discussions, and not be marginalised or castigated because he will not accept the status quo.

This Union congratulates Paul Verryn for his dedicated work with the refugee community, and looks forward to welcoming him back into the broader community of those prepared to fight for change.

For further comment contact the SAMWU International Officer Stephen Faulkner on 011-3310333 or 0828175455.

Tahir Sema.
South African Municipal Workers’ Union of COSATU.
National Media and Publicity officer. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Office: 011-331 0333.
Cell: 0829403403.



28 January 2010

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) notes with serious concern the personal and venomous offensive targeted and directed towards Bishop Paul Verryn.

We are suspicious that this offensive is being lurched against Bishop Verryn forms part of the broader agenda to discredit his person and social standing in society. The bourgeois media has been co-opted consciously or unconsciously to prosecute Bishop Verryn through public opinion.

To many of us Bishop Verryn is a hero and champion for social justice, peace, solidarity and equality for all underpinned by his long voluntary work and outstanding efforts of assisting and accommodating the daughters and sons of ‘garden boys’ and ‘kitchen girls’ from across our borders speaks volume. He is a Bishop that is not detached from the broader struggles and sufferings of the working class and the poor as permeated by Capitalism and dictatorship regimes across our boarders. Bishop Verryn’s actions personify the rich contribution made by others like Father Trevor Huddleston as guided by liberation theology during the struggle for freedom and liberation.

As Numsa we will study the merits and the demerits of the charges leveled against Bishop Verryn as part of soliciting a solid response and view. Numsa will continue working with Bishop Verryn as part of making sure our brothers and sisters who have been displaced through xenophobic attacks and forced migration to South Africa enjoy equal rights with their South African counterparts.

Hands off Bishop Paul Verryn Hands off!

Castro Ngobese
National Spokesperson – 073 299 1595

This statement was released to the media at about 15h30 28 Jan 2010.

THE media frenzy around Bishop Paul Verryn is playing into the hands of those running a smear campaign against him.

As your leading article rightly says, the charges relate to an internal church issue of whether action taken by Verryn to protect some children at the Central Methodist Church was authorised. That is all. The charges lend no support to your headline nor to the innuendoes in your report. Further, they lend no support to the chorus of politically motivated criticism directed by those who are embarrassed because the church is doing what the government is paid to do, and is not.

I have sat in enough meetings of church leaders with various officials at which promises of co-operation between the government and the churches caring for refugees have been made and then broken, to know that the Central Methodist Church is a light in a dark world of negligence and inhumanity.

It is shameful for Verryn’s enemies to make mischief out of these specific charges.

Peter John Lee

Bishop of the Diocese of Christ the King in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Rosettenville, Joburg


southern Africa

Our Vision

“A Christ-healed Africa for the healing of nations”

Our Mission Statement

“God calls the Methodist people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for healing and transformation”

Our Transformational Calls

  • A deepened spirituality
  • A resolve to be guided by God’s mission
  • A rediscovery of “every member ministry – the priesthood of all believers”
  • A commitment to “be one so the world may believe’
  • A re-emphasis of servant leadership and discernment as our ministry model
  • A redefinition and authentication of the vocation of the ordained ministry.

The 4 Imperatives of Mission

Evangelism and Church Growth

Inviting people to personal faith in Christ and His gospel and to belonging in the community of faith as disciples; planting new faith communities especially in informal settlements and new urban multi-cultural congregations.


Connecting to the life giving resources of faith that make for moral regeneration and becoming a holy people in the world.

Justice and Service

To promote the values of justice, unity and reconciliation and the healing of national ills, physical, environmental and social and to be Christ’s compassionate, outstretched hands in the world.

Human and Economic Development and Empowerment

The care and growth of children, the plight of the poor, education, quality of life, nation building.

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