On March 24, controversial preacher Angus Buchan plans to descend on Cape Town for a national prayer meeting with his devotees. The meeting will address Cape Town's drought, a disaster Buchan believes is God's will.
"God is not happy with Cape Town," Buchan intoned, adding: "It will rain when the people repent."
There is no doubt that prayer is a profound practice, the benefits of which are both practical and spiritual. Unity, fellowship and community are among the benefits of both prayer and religion in general. Whether you're a Christian (like Buchan), a Muslim or a Jew, you are entitled to ask for relief – from pain, suffering or injustice.
As our water supply dwindles, moreover, we will find that we rely increasingly upon others – and on principles like fellowship and compassion, unity and community.
Having said that, I advise all those planning to attend Buchan's prayer meeting to not do so. I discourage you from attending, because these are not Buchan's preferred principles.
Buchan plans to paint Cape Town as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, and its people as moral indigents. Thus he will add racism to his brand of already sexist, homophobic evangelism. The cost of Buchan's reckless demagoguery, meanwhile, will fall squarely on Cape Town's water-users.
Cape Town currently faces a water crisis unlike any in recorded history. Residents have been urged to use 50 litres per person or less per day, in a bid to push back Day Zero (the day the city plans to cut the municipal water to the majority of Cape Town's residential areas).
City officials, meanwhile, wasted no time blaming national government, and vice versa, both in a frenzied effort to save face. Some are blaming a decrease in rainfall. Others point out the growth of Cape Town's informal settlements. Throughout lush suburbs, meanwhile, green gardens are met daily by a downpour of municipal water from electronic sprinkler systems.
Buchan's prayer meeting lets companies, statespersons and Capetonians all shirk their civic duty, choosing faith in a divine will over unity and civic responsibility.
This is of no interest to Buchan, whose preferred reading is that God is angry at the people of Cape Town. As such, he will blame moral indigence – crime, lawlessness, drug abuse and alcoholism – for all the pain, suffering and indignity caused by the drought.
What is left out, too, is the fact that the city's non-seriousness toward the drought is in part to blame for those very indignities.
Buchan is well known for openly admitting to sexism and homophobia. The Mighty Men Conference, which he founded, is intended to "help young men be good fathers and husbands", and – most tellingly – "lead from the front". In 2016, it was reported that Scottish Borders Council denied Buchan access to their country, citing his abhorrent views on women and homosexuality.
It is therefore unsurprising that the drought should strike Buchan as proof of his own views on morality and "good" behaviour – as opposed to a complex issue in which many are embroiled and implicated. Those who tend to see themselves as history's protagonists often elide facts in favour of a thin salvation narrative.
It is the same logic that led nationalists under apartheid to support racism, segregation and racial custodianship. The Afrikaners were "God's chosen race", many therefore thought racism was a law sanctioned by God almighty.
They saw neither their own views nor the consequences thereof in the squalor and the dereliction of the so-called homelands. They saw evidence, rather, of their divine duty to "take care of" the peoples of Africa.
Buchan's racism is in full view in the video in which he touts his national prayer gathering. He quips off-hand that "gangs" will protect the attendees, likening the venue (Mitchell's Plain, which is as big as it is diverse) to a place worthy of God's wrath; in need of God's salvation.
Besides that, Buchan's prayer meeting lets companies, statespersons and Capetonians all shirk their civic duty, choosing faith in divine will over unity and civic responsibility. It allows Buchan to shirk qualms about bringing hundreds, if not thousands, of his devotees into a city already stretched to capacity.
As the drought deepens, it is most vital that Capetonians are accountable to each other. Now is the time to promote unity, fellowship, compassion and community among ourselves.
As Day Zero approaches, sadly, the national department of water and sanitation has requested that those who are providing relief water to the city stop doing so. For their part, NGOs have not stopped their efforts.
Cape Town needs water and it needs prayers. It does not need fire and brimstone.