For a country in which more than 70% of people apparently identify as Christians, only a small percentage have voted for parties that acknowledge God in their constitution and promote biblical family values. In 2014, such parties won just seven out of 400 seats in the National Assembly, with the ACDP earning three seats and the FF+, whose main focus is Afrikaner rights and opposing expropriation without compensation, getting four.
But it seems that there is something different about the spiritual atmosphere in 2019 and expectations are that this will be expressed at the polls.
Prayer certainly must be a significant factor behind this shift. Since 2014 we have seen SA’s prayer networks collaborating as never before, and unprecedented numbers of believers on their knees for the nation at the historic It’s Time prayer gatherings at Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Pretoria. And just recently there has been substantial, countrywide support for pre-election campaigns involving prayer and fasting.
The heightened spiritual atmosphere also resonates with notable prophetic words that have been released in recent years regarding godly change in South Africa. Some that come to mind are Dr Jonathan David, in 2017, on the rising of a new Holy Spirit-aligned people’s movement and a new, inspired prayer movement, Bill Johnson on SA being primed for major breakthrough, and Cindy Jacobs on national reconciliation and the rise of a Kingdom people.
Another change agent is the recent emergence of initiatives and movements like Christian Consensus in SA (whose 10 statements on what Christians want for SA have reportedly been endorsed by about two million believers in just a few months), The Great Awakening in SA and Kingdom Nation. These movements appear to have achieved something that was lacking at previous elections: they have mobilised many more believers to view their political choices through a biblical lens.
While these new movements have reached out to bigger parties, and sparked events such as a remarkable, non-partisan prayer meeting attended by Christian representatives of parties like the DA, ANC, COPE, as well as delegates from various Christian-based parties, their overwhelming message to Christians is to be informed about parties’ stances on biblical and family values and to vote according to their beliefs. Vote for a righteous government; Bring “life”, not “death” to South Africa are some of their recurring exhortations.
Is it possible that in this new season, voters who are hungry for righteous government, and fed up with corruption, state capture and controversy that have been festering under the watch of the big parties, are more ready to vote for parties that uphold biblical values and have fresh ideas about developing the nation?
Nineteen new parties have registered to contest this election — apparently believing that there are disenchanted voters looking for a new home. Among the record 48 parties on the ballot paper, there are a number of newcomers and a few established parties that openly follow Christian principles. The Christian-values parties include ACDP, ACO, ARU, FF+, EcoForum, CPM and CDP.
A fair question that is often asked is why the Christian-based parties don’t merge and thereby increase their prospects of winning seats as a bloc. I guess that is a bit like asking why are there so many Christian denominations and churches. It is likely, however, that Christian parties that do win seats will collaborate when opposing or influencing legislation that threatens religious freedom or biblical family values — areas which are under increasing legislative threat. These parties may also collaborate proactively in advocating for pro-life amendments or regarding relations with Israel. Big party MPs are under pressure to toe the liberal party line on such issues, irrespective of their personal views, so Christian-values parties play a crucial role in this space.
It seems that in the present season, Christian parties can expect to get more votes than in previous years — which because of our proportional representation electoral system will translate into more seats, notwithstanding the claims of big parties that a vote for a small party is a wasted vote.
The ACDP is a case study of a party that has been able to play a role as a strategic alliance partner in DA-led administrations, while retaining its freedom to take a stand on matters dear to Christians and of great importance to all of society. With its credible track record of successes since 1994, the ACDP should be better-placed to secure awakened Christian votes, than untested new parties. However, leaders like the ACO’s Dr Convy Baloyi are well-respected and may gain some ground. If a newcomer like the CPM, which is backed by various churches, were to make headway, it might have the effect of increasing the overall Christian voice in parliament without necessarily drawing on believers who have been mobilised by recent initiatives such as Christian Consensus.
An area to watch is the ACDP’s election performance in the Western Cape, following its remarkable 20% jump in a January by-election in Bonteheuwel, a previous DA stronghold in the Cape Flats. The ACDP won around 1% of the ward in local government elections in 2016, and 20.56% this year.
Christians wanting to vote according to their values should pray, do their homework, and study the manifestos and track records of the array of parties appealing to believers. It should be noted that these parties are not religious Christian parties in the sense that they aspire to impose Christianity on anybody or limit anybody’s religious freedom. However, they do openly acknowledge God and profess to uphold biblical and family values.
It remains to be seen whether this is the year that Christians vote their values rather than their fears. The spiritual shift in the atmosphere is tangible and God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen”. So as believers, we can surely be hopeful that God is busy with a new thing whatever happens at the polls.