Folk have asked for my view on who and how to vote in the SA national and provincial elections on 8 May. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts. I write in my personal capacity.
As a nation, in terms of our political-economic situation, we’re in a mess, the lowest point since the (miraculous) change in 1994. The past ten and more years of systematic corruption, now revealed in the Zondo commission, has devastated the nation. There is a crisis of broken public trust, a credibility vacuum that many new political parties are seeking to be fill (there are 48 on the ballot paper). This is beside the lack of just and equitable resolution of outstanding issues like the land, economic empowerment for the poor, unemployment, unresolved racism – among others
How do we decide for whom to vote in the above context? By evaluating the political parties and their key leaders on the following order of (biblical) criteria. In short, we must pray, vote and work for “just and righteous” rulers; i.e. for credible, accountable, competent governance for the sake of peace and prosperity in society, as Paul taught in 1 Timothy 2:1-6. See 1 Samuel 8, Psalm 72 & 82, Isaiah 28:6, 32:1-2 for leader/ruler criteria (righteous rule and justice for the poor feature highly) and for God’s judgement on those leaders who fail. God holds all authority accountable.
Most important. Jesus said what’s in the heart, what has formed the character, predictably comes out the mouth. It’s seen in what people routinely say and do. The fruit of a person’s (and party’s) life and leadership shows who they are, for better or for worse. The ‘Big Three’ tests of character for leaders are ‘money, sex and power’. Are they safe and trustworthy with material resources, with people (relating with integrity, or in use and abuse), and with political power (re their unmet ego needs)? Evaluate the top-tier leaders of the political parties in terms of their character in this regard.
The Zondo commission shows beyond doubt the ANC is morally bankrupt. It’s not just a few rotten Zupta apples as they claim. It’s who the organisation has become (their ethos), confirmed in their list of candidates: many are implicated in wrong doing and corruption and the ANC unashamedly puts them forward to hold public office! What an insult! They have not only allowed but have presided over corruption, lies, cheating and stealing. It has become endemic at all levels of political, civic, business and societal leadership and institutions. I cannot in all good conscience vote for the ANC. The biblical view is that spiritual powers work in and through leaders and parties via broken character for evil, or ethical character for good – and via their ideology and power structures. We must discern the powers, for better or worse, behind leaders & parties, and vote accordingly.
Beliefs, Values & Policies:
It’s NOT what leaders SAY their policies are, it’s what they actually DO – their track record. What they give time, energy and money to reveals what they believe & value. Don’t be deceived by all the right sounding ideology: most of it is populist rhetoric to win votes. Go behind to ask what the leader and party actually believe and value, as heard and seen in their lifestyles and track-record of public policy and its implementation, or lack thereof. Many, if not most parties mouth similar policies and promise the same ‘things’ that our nation needs. It comes down to balancing the weight of trust and credibility, track record and implementation, against the degree of ideological loyalty we give to leaders and their values and policies. No one party will have all the ‘right’ values and policies – it’s a mixed bag of compromise with the lessor of evils.
On this point, I don’t believe in a “Christian” political party. They make their interpretation of biblical ethics national policy. It’s like an Islamic party wanting to impose Sharia Law, or a Jewish or Hindu party. The Nationalist Party was a ‘Christian Government’ creating a ‘Christian Nation’ with ‘Christian Education’, and it produced Apartheid in all sincerity, BUT in all its misery for the majority of SA. Any failure on their part brings Christ’s name and Christian credibility into public disrepute. Jesus taught the separation of Church and State, meaning, as Christians and Church we are “salt and light” (Matt 5:13-16) in society, in the political arena. I.e. we neither seek to “take over the government and nation for Jesus”, nor abdicate our political responsibility in the name of being “apolitical”.
Rather, we influence as “salt… light… leaven” with righteous ethical values, justice advocacy, dialogical policy formation. As the conscience of government and society, we prophetically speak truth to power. If need be, we do civil disobedience in non-violent resistance against unjust/unethical policies. Individual Christians called by God to work in politics, who choose party political participation, have a grave responsibility under God to be salt and light in their party. They must influence policies and implementation for justice and righteousness, for the genuine good of society and NOT for the party vote. This includes exposing any and every lie or cover-up or corruption in their party and circles of influence – for their Christian integrity and good of the nation – or they come under God’s judgement with their party.
Skill & Competence:
It goes without saying that each party and its leadership must also be evaluated on the level and depth of skill and competence in governance. This is seen in terms of track record of actual delivery on policy and promises and more. The crisis of corrupt character in leadership and lazy incompetence in management is choking SA to death. And the poor suffer the most while those in power continue to enrich themselves. The answer? PRAY AND VOTE THEM OUT OF POWER! It’s simple: if national, and especially local government (where we feel it the most) is incompetent and corrupt, don’t just curse them at dinner tables, don’t just protest in the streets by burning tyres, libraries, schools and trains, but VOTE THEM OUT OF POWER. Vote for the next most likely competent and least corrupt party.
A strategic vote:
This is not a biblical criterion, it’s being “cunning as serpents” (Matt 10:16) in my evaluation. After all is said and done, and taking the above into account, the ANC will most certainly win the election. That’s not prophetic, it’s common analysis. Though I pray for Cyril Ramaphosa and trust God for the best, I doubt he will root out corruption and rebuild the ethical ethos, competency and delivery that is needed to turn this nation around for the good of all, especially for the poor. I pray God proves me wrong!
Therefore, our multiparty parliamentary democracy needs a strong vigorous opposition to hold the ruling party accountable and to work constructively on issues of common good for SA. We need far greater balance of power. The EFF will probably gain votes due to their populism but they will certainly be more of a disaster – by the above criteria – as the main opposition party (let alone the ruling party) than the DA. This is despite the DA’s failings on many fronts, including the perception they are a party of white privilege, which on balance is more oppositional rhetoric than the full weight of truth in my view.
There are no serious challengers in the other 45 parties contesting the elections that come even close to a sizeable influential opposition. And to spoil your vote or abstain from voting is unacceptable in light of all we’ve been through to get the vote in SA. So, I’m reluctantly voting DA at national and provisional level, on the basis of a strategic vote, in this current compromised morass of South African politics and failure of character leadership and statesmanship. There will, of course, be reason to disagree with me (including my ‘whiteness’), but taking all the above into account, my view is simply a pragmatic strategic approach for these elections.