PASTORAL LETTER ON THE 2021 ELECTION

The 2021 South African municipal elections will be held on Monday, 1 November 2021, to elect councils for all district, metropolitan and local municipalities in each of the country’s nine provinces.

The following is the message from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference regarding the upcoming elections.

POLITICS INFLUENCED BY NARROW INTERESTS
“Let us not go back to normality, sick with injustice, inequality and environmental degradation. The
normality to which we are called is that of the Kingdom of God, where there is bread for all and the
social organisation is based on contributing, sharing and distributing.” (Pope Francis, 30 September
2020).


In Fratelli Tutti and in other platforms, Pope Francis has consistently reminded us that politics is as
yet to discover its calling in relation to the poor and the interests of the common good. Politics
should be lived as “the highest form of charity since it seeks to serve the common good and the
poor.” (Pope Francis, 1 May 2015)

Decades into constitutional democracy, that which we consider normal in South African politics is
clearly failing the poor and the interests of the common good. This is because our politics is not yet
firmly rooted in ethical values. It is instead strongly influenced by narrow interests of politicians,
political organizations that they represent, as well as the business elite who have managed to
capture our politics.

A CALL TO MORAL RENEWAL IN SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICS
With time, the kind of politics that refuses to subject itself to ethical values gradually develops into
a virus that entrenches consideration of politics as an opportunity for self-enrichment, protects
those who are implicated of corruption, and destroys public confidence in the rule of law, elections
and other democratic processes.

Along with this, politics without an ethical soul loses its capacity to hear the cries of the poor and to
effectively address the economic challenges, like unemployment, inequalities, and poverty, which
the current pandemic has exposed and aggravated.

The elections should influence a new vision of politics where there are consequences when
politicians display serious failures in clean governance, effective service delivery and the
consideration of the common good.

LET US NOT RESORT TO VIOLENCE AND THE BOYCOTTING OF THE ELECTIONS
In the face of these circumstances, our answer should not be a resort to violent protests or a
boycott of elections, as some seem to be advocating, but a greater commitment to building a new
normal in our politics, a moral transformation of our politics, using all legally accepted tools at our
disposal as citizens.

As the nation prepares for municipal elections, we therefore make a strong appeal to all eligible
voters to participate in the elections, and not boycott them as sign of protest and disillusionment
against the state of our politics.

In our call for participation in the election, we also urge all to vote according to your conscience and
in a manner that influences our country to take the first steps in the moral renewal of its politics.

A CALL TO FOLLOW AN INFORMED CONSCIENCE WHEN VOTING
The building of this new normal requires that each one of us behaves differently and ethically in
relation to the forthcoming elections. Particularly, we should give serious attention to the
importance of prayer, discernment of the Spirit and formation of conscience before casting a vote.

The discernment of the spirit and the formation of conscience can itself be guided by these and
similar questions:
1. What is the vision of South Africa that God wants? What is the kind of South Africa
that I want? What kind of leaders should I vote for so that our country achieves this
vision?
2. Should I vote according to my conscience or in accordance with my loyalty to a
particular politician or a particular political party?
3. The moral strength of our politics and our democracy is diminished when there are no
consequences for failure in ethical leadership. Which candidate should I vote for so
that these elections send a warning message to politicians that there will now be
consequences when critical municipal services (water, sanitation, waste management
etc) are disrupted as result of corruption, incompetence, and factional politics?
4. There cannot be true democracy amid deep inequalities that diminish a sense of
being one human family, created equal before God. Which candidate should I vote so
that these elections send a warning that there will be consequences when the poor
continue to become poorer while a few live-in extreme wealth?
5. What are the service delivery needs of our community? Which candidate and
political party will be more effective and efficient in the delivery of such services?

VOTING AS A MOMENT OF MAKING A MORAL CHOICE
At a fundamental level, the results of an election are a mirror of our moral values, that which we
consider as valuable as a nation. If we want a kind of politics where leaders are held to account
when implicated of corruption and incompetence, if accountability and integrity in leadership are
valuable to us, it must be shown in our votes. We must always consider the moral implications of
our vote.

A CALL FOR A FAIR AND VIOLENCE-FREE ELECTION
The forthcoming elections will become a first step towards moral transformation of South African
politics if we have peaceful elections that can produce leaders who act justly, love mercy, and walk
humbly with their God (Micah 6:8).

To ensure peaceful and fair elections, we urge political parties/independents:
– To refrain from inflammatory, intimidating and inappropriate statements;
– To take visible, decisive action when candidates and their supporters are involved in acts of
intolerance, intimidation, harassment and disturbance;
– To respect the election results;
– To do everything to ensure that the rule of law is respected.
– To take measures to end the practice of political assassinations during election season.

We call on the media:
– To refrain from sensationalism.
– To report appropriately and responsibly for the benefit of the common good.

While the responsibility for peaceful and fair elections falls heavily on the political parties and the
media, it is also the responsibility of each one of us. All of us have a responsibility to create an
environment of tolerance and acceptance which enables every South African to support and vote
for the party or the independent candidate that they choose, without fear of violence and
intimidation.

A CALL TO PRAYER
On our own, it will be impossible to change and transform what we consider normal in our politics.
The nation should rely on the strength of God’s grace as we seek the integration of Gospel values
into the circumstances of our politics. As such, in working with the Holy Spirit to build this new
normal in South African politics, we should all “be guided by the love of the Gospel, which is the
spring of all change and which urges us to enter into the wounds of history and rise again.”(Pope
Francis, 3 October 2021).

We therefore invite you to recite this prayer in your families and parishes as we prepare for the
elections and also during the elections.

Heavenly Father, we pray that the Holy Spirit may enable us to choose upright leaders committed to
human dignity and the common good.
Give us the courage to work for your Kingdom through promoting justice and peace in our society.
May your Holy Spirit continually transform us so that we become examples of your mercy and peace
in our families and to others.
We pray for peaceful elections.
We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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