Archbishop Thabo Makgoba used his Christmas midnight mass sermon to lash out at South Africa's current political leadership, making a comparison to living under an apartheid-era state of emergency.
"It feels as if we are back to the national pain of 1963, living under a state of emergency, imposed on us by careless and corrupt leaders who have forgotten us, stripped us of our dignity, " said the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town in a speech prepared for delivery during his midnight sermon at St George's Cathedral.
"People of faith need to begin asking: at what stage do we, as churches, as mosques, as synagogues, withdraw our moral support for a democratically-elected government?"
Makgoba said while he did not want to be asking questions such as these, the situation compelled South Africans to do so: "When do we name the gluttony, the inability to control the pursuit of excess? When do we name the fraudsters who are unable to control their insatiable appetite for obscene wealth, accumulated at the expense of the poorest of the poor?"
'South Africa is not broken'
He said the church would remain defiant against President Jacob Zuma's call that churches not get involved in political matters.
"A president of a democratic South Africa telling the church to stay out of politics? You would be forgiven for thinking that you had climbed into a time machine and gone back 30 years into the past, when apartheid presidents said the same thing," said Makgoba.
"Mr President, we will ignore your call, made from the palaces of power where you and your fellow leaders live in comfort. We will lament and ask God, 'Where are you, God, when your people are marginalised and excluded?'"
The archbishop said that the ANC appeared at "war" with itself.
"[The ruling party is] crippled by division to the degree that some serving members of the Cabinet believe the president must step down," Makgoba said while he had not called for the president to resign, he had stated that he step aside while party leaders addressed "their crisis".
Nevertheless, said the religious leader, South Africa still had hope and confidence. "For unlike in 1963, we are a democracy, and our democracy is vibrant. South Africa is not broken. We have a sound Constitution and we have seen over this past year that we have resilient institutions."
He said that when it came to the courts, especially the Constitutional Court, civil society, the media, whistleblowers in government and the private sector, as well as public servants who were honest and hard working: "They are all doing their jobs well".