It is back to the drawing board for South Africa’s political parties following what surely must be the most hotly-contested elections in the country’s democratic history. The biggest loser was obviously the ANC, which lost support in many urban centres. This decline in support has been a feature in every election under President Jacob Zuma, and yet this has not stopped Zuma from punting the idea that his party has a divine right to rule South Africa.
He frequently offers listeners the idea that this mandate will continue into perpetuity, repeatedly saying the ANC will “rule until Jesus comes”.
Fast forward to the weekend and this mantra prompted Zwelinzima Vavi to tweet that Jesus has indeed come to Nelson Mandela Bay Metro following the ANC’s electoral loss there to the DA.
Zuma has not only arrogated to himself the “right” to speak on God’s behalf, but he also speaks on behalf of ancestors.
He has told his party’s supporters that those who desert the ANC will incur the wrath of the ancestors.
It is difficult to tell whether Zuma makes these utterances in jest or is deliberately using hyperbolic oratory. What is not unclear though is the fact these sentiments are self-serving and manipulative.
They are often echoed around election time to capitalise on the fact that the majority of South Africans are religious.
Zuma is not the only senior member of the ANC to invoke God’s name in politics. Its secretary general Gwede Mantashe has likened the tripartite alliance to the “Holy Trinity” and Jackson Mthembu once proclaimed that “God is with the ANC”.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has also made these kind of statements. While launching his party’s manifesto for the 2014 general elections, he told a gathered crowd in Atteridgeville that God and the ancestors wanted every South African to vote for the ANC.
I think what Ramaphosa sought to do with this strange claim was to imprint in the minds of voters the fearful notion that those who voted against the ANC were acting in defiance of God.
Interestingly this unholy alliance between politics and religion was also a strategy of the National Party. It portrayed the ANC as a party operating outside the will of God.
That the ruling party has resorted to using this same tactic indicates its level of desperation.
The ANC also used traditional healers and other religious figures to perform rituals and prayer for an election victory this year.
In their pre-election rally in Port Elizabeth, the ANC’s spokesman Zizi Kodwa expressed the wish that the smoke from the incense burned by traditional healers would whisk away Athol Trollip of the DA.
But the opposite happened.
The ANC’s negative campaign against the DA and EFF yielded little in terms of positive results. Indeed the party’s electoral support has dropped below 50% in many metropolitan areas. And now it is the DA’s wind of change that is blowing over the Friendly City.
That should settle the matter – the politics of manipulation are no longer working.
It is not fatalism that will win people’s support but pragmatism. In any case mixing religion and politics is dangerous and totally undemocratic.
The pinnacle of a democracy like ours is citizens having the right to choose.
And we exercise this right, not by following a predetermined divine will, but by evaluating and electing leaders who best serve our interests.
There is also the problem of those promoting the idea of a divine right to rule tending to be reluctant to relinquish power when such a time comes.
Besides their failure to grasp the need to seek a mandate from voters, they suffer under the delusion that no else can govern. This is the seedbed of impunity and a lack of accountability. A clean and responsive government is only possible when leaders know that they stand a chance to be democratically removed from power.