The African Christian Democratic Party, which despite its small representation in Parliament, has played a key role in defending religious freedom in South Africa over the past 20 years, will feel justifiably disappointed at the lack of support it enjoyed at the polls on May 7.
Clearly calls by prominent Christian leaders such as Angus Buchan for Christians to vote for parties that are unashamedly Christian were not heeded by the majority of South Africa’s Christian voters. With most of the votes in at the time of posting this report, the ACDP appears likely to lose one of its current three Parliamentary seats, and the Freedom Front Plus seems set to retain its meagre three seats in the 400 member House of Assembly.
Over the past 20 years of democracy a small number of ACDP MPs have managed to bring a Biblical worldview into Parliamentary debate. At the time of the drafting of the Constitution the party succeeded in getting a proposed clause referring to South Africa as a secular state dropped, thereby ensuring a measure of protection for religious freedom in the Constitution. The ACDP also succeeded in preventing legislation which would have outlawed spanking of children which would have criminalised churches who taught this form of discipline and parents who used it. Recently the ACDP, working with FOR SA, secured an amendment in the Women’s Empowerment and Equity (WEGE) Bill which prevented onerous Government interference in charities, NGOs and churches.
In 1994, a year after it was launched, the ACDP won two seats. The party fared better in 1999 (6 seats) and 2004 (7 seats) but only won 3 seats in 2009. The scant support for the ACDP in 2014 probably reflects the low level of awareness among Christians of the seriousness of the increasing attack on Christian values and freedoms in the courts and in the legislative domain. While the right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution there is a war of values raging around the interpretation of constitutional rights and the balancing of competing rights. If the ACDP finds itself with only two MPs they will carry a heavy burden of responsibility in the days ahead. An encouraging recent development is the emergence of FOR SA which is mobilising Churches to unite in defending religious freedom. Perhaps as the Christian voice inside Parliament is decreased we will see a stronger Church voice in the public arena. Hopefully too, the tangible increase in prayer which has accompanied this year’s election will be sustained.
- Election results can be viewed here.