Mmusi: 'Faith doesn't make me a weak politician'
DA leader speaks openly about his Christianity after attending slain 9-year-old's funeral in his personal capacity
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane says he is disturbed by the killing of a nine-year-old child in Chatsworth, Durban in a botched hijacking this week and wrote personal notes to her parents trying to console them.
A deeply moved Maimane said he takes his children to school whenever he can and, as a parent, was haunted at the thought of the little girl being shot and killed on the school run.
“I’m devastated as a father,” he said.
Maimane attended the highly emotional funeral service of Sadia Sukhraj at the Christian Revival Centre on Tuesday where he prayed aloud over her coffin. Members of the community joined in the prayer as he asked for peace for the nation and safety for South Africa’s children.
“I didn’t go there as leader of the DA. The child who was killed wasn’t a DA member. I went there as a father. My daughter is seven, that child was nine,” he said.
“I can’t get away from the moment of seeing another father who had a daughter … Daughters seem to do something to their fathers.”At the funeral, Maimane said he knelt down to speak to Sadia’s father Shailendra Sukhraj, and could see his profound pain. He later sent notes to Sukraj and his wife Lorraine to give them courage in their grief.
Sukhraj was driving his child to school on Monday morning when he was dragged out of his vehicle. Three hijackers drove off with Sadia in the back seat and she was shot during an ensuing gun battle. She died in hospital later.
One of the alleged hijackers was killed and another appeared in court on Wednesday. A third fled and is being hunted by police.
Maimane said while all he could do on Tuesday was offer prayers for the child and her family, he intended to raise the matter with Police Minister Bheki Cele.
“South Africans at least rally around the one idea that we pray. I thought I should do so in the midst of that tragedy. It had very little to do with our politics and everything to do with our prayer.
“Today I’m going to take on Bheki Cele and tell him he must arrest those bastards and lock them up for life,” said Maimane.
In a broad-ranging interview on Wednesday, Maimane spoke of how people sometimes perceive him as “weak” or a “bad politician” because of his Christian faith and the fact that he is a pastor.
“If faith makes me a bad politician, that’s okay. I’m actually not interested in games politicians play,” said Maimane.
“My own faith has brought with it political baggage that I’ve sometimes battled to understand. It is as if being a Christian, a deeply religious one, is in contrast to being a political leader,” he said.
He said Christianity had shaped his convictions and is what drove him to fight against the theft of public money and not to tolerate racism. He pointed out that the founders of the ANC were also deeply religious, as was the Chief Justice of South Africa Mogoeng Mogoeng.
“I am a family man and a religious individual who has a conviction for South Africa,” said Maimane.
* Read the full interview with Mmusi Maimane in the Sunday Times this week.