Two church Statements on the 2011 local government elections in South Africa

Below are two Churches’ statements on the South African local government elections. We publish this here for discussion and reflection.

SACBC Calls for responsible preparation for Local Govt Elections

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 10:33

 Responsible Preparation for the South African Local Government Election.

 A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa to the Catholic Community and people of goodwill.

 4 March 2011.

 The forthcoming municipal elections present us once again with an opportunity to influence the direction our country is taking. We are grateful to Almighty God that we can confidently anticipate a free and fair election process, the eighth in our 17 years of democracy.

 Every citizen has the right to vote, to participate 

 in the choosing of public representatives, and to give a mandate to those entrusted with governance. But it is more than simply a right – it is a duty which rests on every eligible voter. Each of us must use our vote wisely and thoughtfully, in order to help ensure that our cities, towns and districts are run by honest and competent people, to the benefit of all, especially the poor and the vulnerable.

 When we vote in a municipal election we are in effect passing a judgment about the way in which some of our most basic needs are being met. Are we satisfied with the provision of services such as water and electricity? Are our streets and public facilities clean and safe? Are we treated with respect and courtesy by municipal officials?

 The answers to these questions can help us to decide whether to vote for the same people or party as before, or whether it is time to give different candidates a chance. As we said before the national elections in 2009, ‘our first loyalty must be to our fellow citizens, and to the good of our country as a whole, not to a specific party or leader.’

In these elections people living in cities and towns will be able to vote both for a party and for individual candidates standing as ward councillors. These are the people who should be in very close touch with your day-to-day concerns and living conditions. They should have a strong track record of community involvement and service and should be people with high moral standards and integrity.

 Unfortunately, many public representatives in South Africa choose to enter the world of politics because they want power, wealth and status, and not because they are committed to serving the public. This tendency harms our democracy and results in us as citizens not enjoying its benefits.  It leads to corruption, nepotism and self-advancement, at the cost of service-delivery and the well-being of our communities.

 Such people do not deserve our support. If we continue to vote for them, we will have only ourselves to blame if our municipal services crumble and our neighbourhoods are not properly maintained.

 Some questions may be useful in helping us to decide which party and ward candidate to vote for:

  •  Has your existing ward councillor held a public meeting in your area? Were you invited to it? Has he or she ever explained to the community what work they have done to benefit the neighbourhood? Have things improved or got worse in your area since the last municipal election?
  •  Who are the candidates for your ward in the forthcoming elections? Have any of them visited your house or dropped off a pamphlet or other information?
  •  Which political parties have made the effort to visit your area? Have any of them asked for your suggestions and comments on the way your council is operating?
  •  Do the various candidates live in the ward where they are standing for election? Do they have a record of service to the community and involvement in its affairs? Have they shown that they really understand and care about the needs of the community?
  •  Have any of the candidates been involved in corruption or other crooked activities? Have they changed parties a number of times, simply in order to hang on to their jobs? Do you think any of the candidates have been put forward just because their party ‘owes’ them a position?

 The answers to these questions will tell us which candidates genuinely want to serve us, and which ones only want to serve themselves and advance their own political careers. The answers will also help us to see which political parties truly have our interests at heart.

 Let us reflect prayerfully on the opportunity that we have to make South Africa a better country. Let us remember that our brothers and sisters in many places on our continent are still denied the right to vote freely and fairly; it is not something that we should ever take for granted.

 Finally, let us place these elections, and the well-being of our nation, in God’s hands:

 Lord, we pray that our forthcoming elections may bring about a deepening of our democracy, and that we will carry out our duties as citizens responsibly and with respect for the rights of others. May the choices we make bring hope to the poor, unity to all our people, and a brighter future for our children.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen

 Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI

Archbishop of Johannesburg

President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

UNITING REFORMED CHURCH IN SOUTHERN AFRICA GENERAL SYNOD PASTORAL LETTER: MUNICIPAL/LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS 13 MAY 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa,

We greet you in the Name of our Lord, the risen, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you from God OUR father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Within a few days, we as a nation will once again go to the polls to vote for our representatives in Local Government. This is a very important democratic right and responsibility that we should not take lightly or without deep thought. We are aware of the disappointment and despair in our political leaders throughout our country, because on local and national government level delivery of services to you are in a shameful condition. It is a condition which amounts to a criminal neglect of our democratic constitution and ideal. Because of that, you might feel the temptation not to take part in the democratic process for Local government elections. That is a feeling that the Church understands. It is your right as a citizen to be disappointed when political promises made during election campaigns, are not met in actual delivery. It is because of these emotions and because taking part in the different levels of the democratic process, is such an important duty and a duty that we as citizens Of South Africa and specifically as Christians must perform, that the Executive of the Uniting Reformed Church regard it as our duty to write this Pastoral Letter to you as members.

VOTING A POLITICAL AND FAITH/RELIGIOUS ACT

Voting is not only a political act; it is also an issue of religion and faith. God did not worked out policies or a structures for political life, but God gave us the responsibility to govern His earth (Gen 1:26-29). God was however, clear in His Word on the manner His earth should be ruled. God expects the rulers of His earth, all of us, voters and our public representatives alike, to act morally virtues and not morally vicious. The Bible is clear what kind of society God’s earth must reflect: justice, righteousness, peace in its comprehensive meaning. God gave a vision and directions in His Word for a society of dignity and justice. The Prophet Amos speaks of that in Amos 5:24, when he says, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream! “ Has justice been done to the people by our elected leaders?

TAKE CARE OF YOUR CITY, YOUR TOWN

In the Book of the prophet Jeremiah 29: 7 , the prophet sends a letter to the people of God (Israel ) in exile and advised them how to make their community life better in exile. He says, “Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it (the City/town) prospers, you too will prosper.” The country, cities and towns in which we live are our responsibility, as citizens. Who will take care of the country, the cities and towns, if we don’t? We must seek the peace and prosperity of our towns and cities, for indeed if it goes well with our towns and cities, if it prospers, we who live in it shall prosper. We know from our reality in our towns and cities, as the delivery protests highlight it for us so clearly, that justice and peace lie wounded on the streets of some of our cities and towns. In many of our cities and towns circumstances are deteriorating on different levels. Many a time development takes place in the wrong directions, on the wrong issues, and we as citizens in most cases do not benefit from it. Shall we despair in a situation like this? Absolutely not! We have a responsibility and a new chance to effect the change we want in our towns and cities. Come Wednesday 18 May 2011, when you have the opportunity to vote, you have also an opportunity to advance the interest of your city and your town. The question arises, who do I vote for? How do I come to the point that I make my choice for a certain party? It is nor the duty neither the right of the Executive to tell you for whom to vote. Your vote is your secret and right.

HOW CAN YOU DISCERN TO MAKE A MEANINGFUL CHOICE

The Executive would however call on you, to ask the following questions and determine for yourself how your city or town will best be governed in the next few years:

1. Are you satisfied with the service delivery in your city or town? If not, will you return the current rulers of your city or town to continue with bad service delivery?

2. Were the promises made during the previous Local Government elections met? If not, are you prepared to let them make empty promises to you again?

3. Are you satisfied with the way your tax money is spent in your city or town? Do you, city /town benefit from it?

4. Look around in the streets of your city or town, is that the state of affairs you want? If not, will you vote again for the current rulers of your town or city?

5. We want to repeat what we have said in our press release on 11 February 2011, on the misuse of the Christian religion in this election campaign, something that you should also take in consideration: ”In light of this, yet another despicable occurrence , the leadership of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, has no other choice, but to call upon all its members, to search their conscience before God, to think carefully and ask themselves, if they can vote in this coming election for any party who has no respect for their faith.” Election time is about you, the citizen, what you need and want and whether or not the politicians or party, who present themselves to you as the right person/party to provide it to you are indeed the right people. Vote on your needs and the needs of your cities and towns. Vote on the issues that count for you, the citizen.

EMPTY POLITICAL RHETORIC

During the campaigns we have heard yet again, how political parties will ensure heaven for us on earth by giving lofty and empty political promises. We must make sure that the promises political parties make, during electioneering, indeed be fulfilled. By using your vote carefully, you must and can ensure, not only on voting day, but especially throughout the whole process of governance that these promises actually become reality. After the elections hold your town and city governments accountable, by active and organised governing from your community. Keep them accountable throughout.

PRAY FOR THE ELECTIONS

We as Christians should continue to pray for our cities and towns,”Because if it (the city, town) prospers, you too will prosper.” Let us continue to pray for the responsible and just governance on all levels of our society. Let us especially pray this coming Sunday, 15 May, for a peaceful Local Government election day on 18 May. We ask congregations to distribute this letter this Sunday, 15 May among all members and if you can fit into program of service, to read it to the congregation.

May God bless you. May God bless South Africa, guide her rulers and give her justice and peace.

Issued by: The Executive/ Moderamen of the General Synod:

Rev. Prof ST Kgatla (Moderator)

Rev. Dr Mary-Ann van Plaatjies – van Huffel (Assessor /Deputy Moderator)

Rev. Dr Dawid Kuyler (Scribe/ Executive Secretary)

Rev M Godfrey Betha (Actuarius/ Church Law official)

Rev Dr Henry G. Platt (Representative of the Regional Synod of Namibia)

Rev. Dr Modise (Representative of the Regional Synod of Southern Transvaal)

Rev PM Moloi (Representative of the Regional Synod of Kwazulu- Natal)

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