Leave God out of it, Zuma

You know, it’s difficult enough being a Christian these days. Not only are there the money-making quacks to avoid, we also have to put up with smug and ill-read atheists. A tough job, all in all.

So the last thing we need is another politician furthering the cause of stupidity under our banner.

This weekend was a hard one for us on the side of absolute truth. President Jacob Zuma took a macro decision on behalf of the Independent Electoral Commission and, it would appear, God, that a vote for the ANC could double up as a free pass into heaven. And across the globe his hotter and dumber equivalent Sarah Palin enthused about how she could ignore criticism thanks to her Christian faith.

It’s enough to make a decent Christian girl want to crawl under her duvet and refuse to come out until they test for a vague grasp of common sense before handing out Bibles.

Not that it would help. Sarah Foot-In-Mouth Palin is alas, ours. I know this by the way she speaks about her faith and devotional times in the same interview, so that it becomes quite clear that she means it when she says she’s a Christian. A special brand of American Christianity, mind you, which happily equates Republican policies with Biblical injunctions based on the vaguest of scriptures, along with the right to carry a big-ass gun—and use it.

Zuma, on the other hand, offends me even more with his shameless use of religion when it suits him. Rather than dealing with the complete breakdown of trust between the ANC and South Africans on a local level, he pulls this tired rabbit out of the pre-election hat.

The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday about the frightening crisis in various local governments under the ANC. In Johannesburg, residents are grappling with a billing crisis, involving exorbitant bills and unexpected water and lights cuts, thanks to inept cronies winning contracts to provide the services. In Durban the city is haemorrhaging hundreds of millions of rands on ridiculous projects such as uShaka Marine World, while its poorest citizens wait for houses that fall apart thanks again to inept tenderpreneurs who have the right connections and little else by way of skills.

Instead of confronting the multiple crises that his party has engendered through sheer greed, Zuma does his moral one-up trick ahead of local elections. Because it’s easier to talk about the showstoppers—heaven and hell—than it is to deal with the mundane subjects of that same faith: selflessness, humility and honesty.

Speaking in isiZulu during a voter registration in Mthatha, Zuma said: “When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven. When you don’t vote for the ANC you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork ... who cooks people ... When you are carrying an ANC membership card, you are blessed. When you get up there, there are different cards used but when you have an ANC card, you will be let through to go to heaven ... When [Jesus] fetches us we will find [them] wearing black, green and gold, the holy ones belong to the ANC.”

Yup, that’s the way to go. Take a country with truckloads of issues, find the one it doesn’t have, and try to make it an issue. We’re lucky enough to get along in relative religious harmony in South Africa, but Zuma is determined to mess even that up with his borderline psychopathic musings on the subject.

And as with the ANC’s failed attempts to censor the media, Zuma again helps the ruling party bear a scary resemblance to the National Party under apartheid. They, too, justified their actions under the banner of being “God’s chosen people”. The fall from revolutionary party to oppressor mimicry is almost textbook Orwell.

The last time I checked I chose to live in a democracy—not a theocracy. That implies a division between church and state, and one that I fully support as a Christian. Yes, leaders are influenced by their beliefs and their ideologies, but the politician’s lectern is not a pulpit and government is not the place to preach.

High profile South African Jewish people have already told Israel where to get off when oppressing others in their name. So I feel now is a good time to appropriate the “Not in my name” campaign for this situation. Zuma, find another ideology to advance your evasions and your desperate plea for votes. Leave my faith out of it.

Is the ANC exactly like Christianity? Read Chris Roper’s take on the matter.

  • You can read Verashni’s column every Monday here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian. She grew up in Laudium, Pretoria, learned her trade at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, spent a spell in Cape Town as an online journalist, and now loves living in Jozi. Her interests are broad but include a focus on politics and multi-platform storytelling. Read more from Verashni Pillay


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