Religion 'must not be used for canvassing votes'

A number of organisations and individuals, political and religious, have made their voices heard over recent comments by President Jacob Zuma equating a vote for the African National Congress (ANC) to a pass to heaven.

Political analyst Professor Steven Friedman feels too much of a fuss was made over the matter. “I’m not entirely sure why ... It was a silly remark to allude that there is a religious reward for voting for some parties and not others.

“I think one must be more worried when Zuma says the ANC will rule forever; this means he doesn’t see any other party as legitimate [to rule the country].”

Zuma is quoted as having told party supporters, while speaking in isiZulu in Mthatha over the weekend, “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 the 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.”

Seeking clarity
However, some organisations have not taken kindly to the comments, regardless of the ruling party’s defence that statement was metaphorical.

Abdul Khaliq Allie, secretary general of the Muslim Judicial Council, said, “Religion must be respected as principle. It must not be used for canvassing for votes in any election.

“The build-up to elections should be one of dignity and honour to all South Africans.”

Pastor Ray McCauley, of the Rhema Bible Church, the International Federation of Christian Churches and the supposedly ANC-aligned National Interfaith Leader’s Council, said he did not know the context in which the statement was made. However, even so, he “would not agree with a literal comparison of heaven and/or hell to a political party”.

McCauley “will seek an audience with the president at his earliest convenience to seek clarity on the matter”.

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) also voiced its dissatisfaction with the comments. SACC president Bishop Jo Seoka called Zuma’s statement “blasphemous”. The general secretary of the organisation, Eddie Makue, indicated that it too will seek audience with the president about his comments. “Approaches have been made to secure a meeting with President Zuma where this and other important concerns of the SACC will be discussed.”

Here is some reaction to Zuma’s comments:

  • Christian Democratic Party —“blasphemy”.

  • ANC—“figurative”, “metaphoric”.

  • African Christian Democratic Party—“simply blasphemous”, “ludicrous”, “deceptive”.

  • Democratic Alliance—“divisive, anti-democratic rhetoric”, “religious threats”, “offensive”, “unacceptable”, “incendiary”, “dangerous”, “political skulduggery”.

  • United Democratic Movement—“continuous blasphemy”, “careless”.

  • Inkatha Freedom Party—“utterly distasteful”, “disgraceful”, “unacceptable”, “outright manipulation”, “intimidation”, “direct attack”, “blatantly lying”.

  • ANC chaplain general—“out of context”, “figure of speech”.

  • South African National Civic Organisation—“Zulu idiom”, “quoted out of context”.
However, this is not the first time that the ruling party, under Zuma, has invoked religion ahead of elections.

In 2009, there were reports of Zuma telling an ANC rally in Witbank that the ruling party would stay in power until Jesus returns.

In 2008, Zuma compared the Congress of the People (Cope) to the donkey Jesus rode on into Jerusalem. He said: “The people were waiting for the son of man who was on the donkey. The donkey did not understand it, and thought the songs of praise were for him.”

Reports said: “According to Zuma, the donkey later tried to return to Jerusalem on its own in order to once again experience that moment of glory, but people chased it away. In the same way, Cope leaders will find they are nothing without the ANC.”

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