03 – 06 DECEMBER 2023




Distinguished representatives of faith-based organisations, allow me to stand on the existing protocols and say, all protocols observed. Permit me also to express my sincere condolences on the untimely passing on of the founder Board Member for Faith to Action Network, Dr. Douglas Hubert. May his dear departed soul rest in eternal peace.


Before delving into the substance of my closing remarks, I crave your indulgence to preface my remarks with a brief but illustrative story:

“One serene Sunday morning, I was attending church in Windhoek, Namibia where the SADC Parliamentary Forum is based. Right in the middle of the service, a man staggered into the church stone drunk and barely able to walk. He chooses a seat right at the back of the church and literally collapses into the seat. Our resident Priest, whose sermon at that point had reached fever pitch, gave him one stern look and continued with his preaching on sin and heaven. With renewed vigour, he declared, “On judgement day, God will not admit thieves into heaven!” The drunkard immediately stood up from his seat and shouted, “Tell them Pastor!!” much to the bemusement of the congregation. The Priest continued, “On judgement day, God will not admit adulterers into heaven. Repent my brothers and sisters for the time is nigh!” The drunkard shot up again and shouted, “Right on, Pastor!” The Priest, now enjoying the encouragement persisted, “On judgement day, God will not admit drunkards into heaven…” The silence was so deafening one could have heard a pin drop. Then the drunkard stood up slowly, took a deep breath and said, “Sit down and shut up! What do you know about heaven? You have never been there yourself”, then he staggered out of the church and left in a huff. Where am I going with this, ladies and gentlemen? I am putting a disclaimer that if I do or say anything that unintentionally provokes any of you, please just tell yourself “What does she know? She has never been to heaven.”   




Esteemed Dignitaries, Ladies and Gentlemen,


Let me begin by expressing my profound appreciation to all the organisations that came together to convene this critically important, relevant and timely Inter-Religious Convention which is running under the theme, “FAITH CHANGE MAKERS - Affirming Human Dignity, Justice and Freedom for All.” I salute the Faith to Action Network, World Faiths Development Dialogue, Act Ubumbano, ACT Church of Sweden, The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, World YWCA, Act Alliance, Religions for Peace, Mensen Met Een Missie and Muhammadiyah for advancing God’s nobility through this call to action for faith-based organisations. I salute all of you who have demonstrated by their presence here that you place a high premium on the role of religion and faith in affirming human dignity, justice and freedom for all. I also applaud all of you for coming because by agreeing to congregate with other religions which may be different in principle from your own, and collectively seeking solutions to the challenges we are grappling with in this world, you have not only demonstrated maturity and respect for diversity, but as Bakang Nakedi rightly observed, you have affirmed that though we may diverge in terms of social practices and interpretation, “All religions are fundamentally united in purpose and must manifest the virtue of God.” I believe that the quest for human dignity, justice and freedom for all are fundamental virtues of the God we all serve.

I must, however, admit that when I received the invitation from Mr. Munene to come and deliver the closing remarks at this convention, I could not for the life of me figure out why he had deemed it fit to invite one who spends the majority of her working life with politicians to come and address, of all people, religious people. The irony is still not lost on me. However, it dawned on me that despite the marked differences in our spheres of operation, both political and religious leaders wield immeasurable influence in society which, if not used responsibly, and for the greater good of mankind can foster intolerance, cultism, and the conflicts and fatalities attendant to them. Our people can either become victims or perpetrators of intolerance on the basis of their beliefs but they can also be agents of change in encouraging tolerance, promoting dialogue, inclusivity, equality, and respect for diversity and, in so doing, affirming human dignity, justice and freedom for all, if we lead them in the right direction. Parliamentarians, as community and opinion leaders, have an important role to play in meaningfully engaging with the values and worldviews of their constituents, many of which are influenced by religion or belief. Parliaments and Parliamentarians must ensure that human rights are upheld, without distinction of any kind, be it religious or otherwise. Religious leaders also wield an influence comparable to or even much more than that of political actors moreso with the growing prominence of the ‘Man of God’ some of whom have  been elevated to the status of deities. It is, therefore, a befitting act of divinity for me to be here because as leaders of political and religious institutions at our different levels, we are bequeathed with a collective responsibility to leverage on our influence to inform, educate and raise awareness among our people on the importance of tolerance, inclusivity and collaboration and thus transform our societies into peaceful, just and inclusive societies that recognise the essential worthy of every individual regardless of race, gender, religion, social status or creed.

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Permit me, therefore, to be as practical as possible in my address because the grave matters we are gathered here for do not require theorizing. The issues we are gathered here for will not be resolved by academic treatise or high-sounding and yet superfluous remarks that are full of verbosity but in the end signify nothing. I will posit from the onset, ladies and gentlemen, that the issues we are gathered here for require an inflexible political and religious will and an unwavering commitment to making this world a better place for ourselves and posterity to live in. I will give you just a few practical examples to buttress my assertion but before I get into the substance of my speech, allow me to briefly introduce the SADC Parliamentary Forum for the benefit of those who may not know it.


The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) was established in 1997 in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty as an autonomous institution of SADC. It is a regional inter-parliamentary body composed of fifteen (15) parliaments representing over 3500 parliamentarians in the SADC region. These member parliaments are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Forum, which is headquartered in Namibia, seeks to bring regional experiences to bear at the national level, to promote best practices in the role of parliaments in regional cooperation and integration as outlined in the SADC Treaty and the Forum Constitution. Its main aim is to provide a platform for parliaments and parliamentarians to promote and improve regional integration in the SADC region, through parliamentary involvement.

The objectives of the Forum address a wide range of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Promotion of human rights, gender equality, good governance, democracy and transparency;
  • Promotion of peace, security and stability;
  • Hastening the pace of economic cooperation, development and integration on the basis of equity and mutual benefits;
  • Facilitating networking with other inter-parliamentary organizations;
  • Promoting the participation of non-governmental organisations, business and intellectual communities in SADC activities;
  • Familiarising the peoples of SADC with the aims and objectives of SADC; and
  • Informing SADC of the popular views on development and issues affecting the region.

The Forum is currently a deliberative and consultative body of SADC but the transformation of the Forum into a SADC Regional Parliament has been approved by SADC Heads of State and is imminent. The Heads of States recognised that without a continental Parliament, there is a missing link in the SADC governance matrix not just in terms of participatory democracy, but, equally importantly, in strengthening the demand side of accountability. Parliaments the world over, are critical to any governance architecture as institutions of accountability that hold governments to account and ensure that governments deliver to citizens’ expectations. Parliaments are critical cogs in public sector accountability and our Heads of State recognized that such an institution cannot be missing at the regional level moreso when every other region on the continent has a functional Parliament.

My presence here, therefore, is not only to ensure that the voice of the SADC citizens finds expression in global human rights discourse but is also part of our mandate of promoting human rights, gender equality, peace, security and stability which is part of what this convention seeks to achieve. Our roles are, therefore, mutually complementary and there is scope for co-operation between the Forum and all the organisations represented here both individually and collectively. The SADC PF thus commends the organisers of this convention and we lend our full support to the deliberations and outcomes thereof.




Distinguished Dignitaries, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I requested your indulgence at the beginning to be as practical as possible in order to align what we are doing here with the lived realities of our daily lives. In that regard, allow me to give a few examples.

A few months ago, I was on a connecting flight from Europe to Africa wherein I travelled with over 20 Sudanese refugees who were being assisted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), to relocate to a temporary safe haven amidst the fierce armed conflict in Sudan which has claimed over 9000 lives, displaced more than 4.5 million people with a further 1.1 million fleeing to neighbouring countries. Sadly, the majority of these refugees were women and young children who have witnessed the horrors of war that children of their age should never be exposed to. Their lives will never be the same again. Some of them have tragically lost fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers to a war that is not of their making and whose cause some are still grappling to comprehend. They have been uprooted from the country they call home, from the only heritage they have known since birth, because of decisions that the politicians and military men make that have far-reaching implications beyond the struggle for power nomatter how justified they may feel it is. The haunted look in some of those eyes, the despair in their body language, ought to force us to rethink and remodel how we use the influence that we hold. With great power comes great responsibility. “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). The question is, are we using the political and religious sway and influence that we hold as opinion leaders responsibly?



The Sudanese civil war continues unabated more than six months after the conflict began but for some it is slowly falling off the radar because the focus is now on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Reports indicate that over 15 000 Palestinians and 1 200 Israelis have died since October 7 underlining the severe human cost of the ongoing conflict. The conflict, regrettably, has both political and religious underpinnings. I will pose a sobering question, is there ever a winner in such a conflict? What is the cost of winning as we understand it?   


From politics let me zero in specifically on religion. In the month of April this year, the African continent and Kenya in particular awoke to the shocking news that at least 201 bodies had been found at a ranch of a pastor in Kenya who allegedly told his followers to starve themselves to death to meet Jesus. A former deputy preacher of the cult told the New York Times that children were killed first, ordered “to fast in the sun so they would die faster.” Tragic as it may be, sadly, it is not the first incident of cult-related mass deaths. In what came to be infamously known as the Uganda Doomsday Sect, authorities believe that more than 500 members of the sect known as the Movement for the Restoration of the 10 Commandments of God died in a mass suicide in 2000 when their chapel was set alight and they burned alive. Similarly, more than 900 men, women and children died when American preacher and People’s Temple leader Jim Jones orchestrated a ritual of mass suicide and murder by ordering followers to drink a cyanide-laced grape drink at their settlement in Guyana in 1978. The settlement and the cult deaths gained worldwide infamy as Jonestown. The Heaven’s Gate cult in San Diego, USA, in 1997 also resulted in the loss of 39 lives not to mention the 51-day standoff between federal agents and members of the Branch Davidians religious group which ended with the mass suicide of more than 70 Branch Davidians. From the foregoing, it is evident that the influence of religious leaders and belief should never be downplayed. Religion and belief constitute an important dimension of the identity, values and decision-making processes of individuals and communities. As a result, the Inter Parliamentary Union Parliamentary Report on Religion and Belief asserts that, “Religious stakeholders can wield an influence comparable to political actors.”[1]


The African continent is still riddled with a lot of challenges, chief among them, poverty, unconstitutional changes of government, rising incidences of conflict, the ravages of climate change, terrorism and violent extremism, unemployment, migration, energy insecurity and the looming threat of hunger and malnutrition. The resolution of these challenges requires a concerted approach by all regardless of religion or political affiliation. It is, therefore, critically important now more than ever for political and religious leaders to come together to work towards a common future for posterity instead of focusing on internecine religious or political conflicts that undermine socio-economic development and disrupt the lives and livelihoods of the citizenry.

The world has also witnessed unsavoury incidences of xenophobic, ethnic, gender-based, racial and political violence, all of which point to intolerance of differences, intolerance of divergent opinions and discrimination. Sadly, as I have already demonstrated, in the majority of instances, it is the politicians and religious leaders who are at the centre of fanning these conflicts and the consequences thereof.


In that regard, ladies and gentlemen, I will once again draw on the sobering words of the great Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi who said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The late former Vice-President of Zimbabwe, Dr. John Landa Nkomo, (God rest his soul!) amplified this by saying, “Change begins with you. Change begins with me. Change begins with all of us.” As political and religious leaders we are revered by our people as opinion leaders. Even before we look at what our Parliaments or congregants are doing, we must start by asking ourselves, what are we doing to make this world a better place for our children to live in regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation? What narrative are we peddling to the gullible hearts of the citizens that latch on to our every word? Are we harbingers of tolerance, messengers of equality and equity, emissaries of gender justice and human dignity or are we Manichean preachers that only see things in black and white? Professor Sarojini Nadar has already sounded a sobering warning to us when she said, “We run the risk of being blind to our own prejudices while we seek to resolve prejudices out there.”

As opinion leaders we have a social responsibility to inform, educate and in the process hope to transform society. Societal transformation towards a more tolerant, just, equal and inclusive world that respects fundamental human rights and freedoms, including gender equality, must start with us and it must start now. Allow me to take a leaf from Father Peter John Pearson who drew from the illustrative words of Ursula K. Le Guin, who said, “You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” To transform the world we, indeed, need to first transform ourselves.

As religious leaders and leaders of faith-based organisations, how do we perceive other religions? What do we say to those we lead about other religions? Do our sermons not ferment intolerance? Yet the guiding principle of any religion is and ought to be love, for the God we serve is love. To borrow from the reflections of Professor Nadar again, what is our “God-talk?” Is it not misogynistic and racist? Does it not put our religion on a pedestal and deride others? These are questions we need to earnestly self-introspect on and that should guide what we say every time we stand on the podium in front of gullible citizens or on the pew in front of trusting congregants who have placed their faith in us. This convention is, therefore, an important platform to engage, destroy preconceived ideas and stereotypes about each other and our religions, develop a common agenda and commit to work together to affirm human dignity, justice and fundamental human rights and freedoms regardless of religion, gender, race or creed. We have aptly called ourselves “Faith Change Makers.” If we are united, spurred on by indefatigable faith, nothing can stop us in making this world a better place for man, women, girls and boys to live in.



As a regional Parliament, we have debated and spoken out against racism, xenophobia, religious and political intolerance, gender discrimination  and we shall continue to do so. We cannot afford to remain silent. We have a duty to hold our Member States to account and ensure that we promote human rights, gender equality, good governance, democracy and peaceful co-existence. Research has found that countries that uphold freedoms have more vibrant and democratic political institutions, rising economic and social well-being, diminished tension and violence, and greater stability. Nations that trample on or fail to protect fundamental human rights, including religious and political freedom and gender equality, provide fertile ground for poverty and insecurity, war and terror, and violent, radical movements and activities.



In recognition of the important role that the religious sector plays in fostering sustainable peace and development, the SADC Parliamentary Forum is open to engagement and partnerships with any faith-based organisation. We are willing and ready to collaborate with religious groups from different theological persuasions in an endeavour to foster faith-based tolerance, promote human rights, peace, security and stability among the peoples of the SADC region. I am pleased to see that as part of the programme there is a session on “Faith in SRHR and Reproductive Justice” because the SADC PF is currently spearheading a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Project through national Parliaments in the SADC Region. The Project seeks to enhance universal access to sexual and reproductive health services to women and girls in the region and partnering with faith-based organisations will assist us to break through some of the barriers erected by religious beliefs that are stalling access to sexual and reproductive health services to those who need the services. It is our firm belief that such partnerships will go a long way towards building an inclusive, tolerant, healthy, prosperous and united region and thus advancing the ultimate objective of regional integration.


In closing, allow me to reiterate that intolerance in all its forms fosters conflict and disunity which diminishes us all. It is incumbent on all of us to stand up against it. Äs religious leaders we must never be bystanders to any form of bigotry. Accordingly, let me conclude with a quotation from the Speaker of the Lower Chamber of the Parliament of Ireland, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, as quoted in the Parliamentary Report on Religion and Belief, who said,

“Politics is not just about leading, it is also about service, and religion in one shape or another is about leading and it is also about service, so we have a common interest in serving the needs of the people that we represent. It is far better that we at least understand each other if we are not in fact going to be working hand in glove with each other.[2]


As Canon Grace Kaiso rightly put it in yesterday’s opening prayer, “Let us be a gift to each other” and let us work together for the betterment of this world. Let us work together to actualize the dream not just of a “genderless language” as propounded by the Muhammadiyah, but a genderless society that gives equal opportunities to men and women, boys and girls. Let us be inspired by the compelling narrative of the Bahai faith, which holds that “War is a true contradiction of the essence of God,” to use the podium and the pulpit to preach peace and end the wars that are riddling this world. In line with YW4A’s operative mantra, let us “Rise Up” today and set unshakeable foundations for inter-religious social justice action.  This convention should be the rallying point. Together we can and Together we will!!

I thank you and have the honour to declare this convention officially closed. God bless you all!!


[1] Inter-Parliamentary Union (2023) Parliamentary report on religion and belief – Part 1: Institutional engagement with religion and belief by parliaments pp3

[2] Inter-Parliamentary Union (2023) Parliamentary report on religion and belief – Part 1: Institutional engagement with religion and belief by parliaments pp 19



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The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) was established in 1997 in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty as an autonomous institution of SADC It is a regional inter-parliamentary body composed of Thirteen (14) parliaments representing over 3500 parliamentarians in the SADC region. Read More

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