By Cheryllyn Dudley — ACDP MP
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I will be voting ACDP at this election! Now, that may seem obvious to you – self interest is a great motivation – I have a well paid job depending on that vote – although the reality is I have had other offers that could have trumped what I have at present – but the self interest does not stop there – I have concluded that it is in my, and my family’s best interests to do all I can to see the ACDP succeed. I am convinced that the ACDP has the best chance of producing the kind of leaders I would like to see leading South Africa and has the best chance of being a genuinely pro-people party defending our freedoms and taking seriously our responsibilities.
After the last national election I had a very serious conversation with myself on this topic, which went something like this “Lord what…are you finished with this work…have we done what we were meant to do…should this thing called ACDP just be allowed to die a quiet and as dignified as possible death – or is there something worth fighting for?” I came to the conclusion that for me – there was very definitely something worth fighting for.
Now, I have no doubt that what makes this work worth fighting for in my eyes, may be different to what makes it worth it, for you – we are a diverse people in South Africa and even within the Church of Jesus Christ we are diverse. I personally don’t think that in any party there are two people who think alike on every single issue and in the ACDP it will be the same – we will not agree on every single issue but we will find ways to agree to disagree if we are convinced that we agree on enough of what is important to us. I have purposed to be true to myself and to you in arguing as constructively as I know how on less than popular issues within the party – on many occasions decisions have gone in a direction opposite to what I would like to have seen but at no time have I been given less opportunity to put the less popular view. This is important to me because I want to be in a political party that understands humans are fallible and can be wrong, a party that thinks things through and considers the possible consequences both intended and unintended, is not afraid of a dissenting view and is prepared to stretch their thinking to be sure everything that can be considered has been considered.
Multi-party democracy gives our diverse society very real options – we can get behind any party which we feel best represents our values and principles and be assured that we will have a voice in the democratic processes in South Africa. The degree of influence that voice has will of course depend on things like the competence and integrity of the representatives, the number of votes received etc. For me, our proportional vote system has given almost every part of society a voice — it has ensured a degree of nation building that would not have been possible if people were constantly having to resort to violent and destructive demonstrations to be heard. Yes I know violent and destructive demonstrations take place despite broad representation – but how much more so would this be if sections of people had no representation and no hope of representation.
Christian values and principles
What makes the ACDP worth fighting for, for me, is that it is unashamedly based on Christian values and principles and has a 20 year track record in terms of applying their biblically influenced worldview in Local Municipalities, Provincial Legislatures and National Parliament. I am grateful that I have had the option of putting my energy and my vote into a political party that has understood the value of being guided by Christian values and principles. I have witnessed the difference the ACDP has made in bringing this – often ‘politically incorrect view’- to the debates and deliberations in Parliament. I believe South Africa would not be what it is today if the ACDP did not exist and I am convinced that we would be doing a disservice to the country if we were to allow the ACDP to disappear from the political landscape of our country.
In 1993 when the ACDP came into being there was a very real sense that the ‘Christian Voice’ was under threat. The last national election however indicated that Christians were no longer seeing this as a threat. My take on this is that because the ACDP had succeeded in protecting religious freedom and by its presence – reminding other parties that Christians within their ranks had other options – other parties have had to show a semblance of consideration on issues important to Christian and religious communities. This will not be the case if there were to be no ACDP – without the ACDP parties committed to a secular worldview would not have to waste time explaining themselves on these issues and without opposition, could decide what churches and religious leaders can and cannot teach and preach.
Religious freedom has been under threat and is under threat. At the time of the drafting of the constitution the ACDP was able to bring to the attention of the public a proposed clause that would have referred to South Africa as a ‘secular state’. The original concept of a secular state was that of keeping government from interfering in the affairs of the church and religion – in recent times it has been interpreted as keeping the church and religion out of the public arena, out of government, out of schools, etc. What is important about the ACDP’s success in getting that proposal dropped is that ‘religious freedom’ which is protected in the constitution is now able to be balanced against other rights in a court of law – if South Africa were constitutionally declared a secular state, religious freedom would not have even the relative status it has today.
There have been many examples of attempts by legislators to curtail freedoms in general and religious freedom in particular and the ACDP’s response in defending these freedoms is on record. One of these would be the example of the clause in the Children’s Bill which would do away with the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ – effectively outlawing spanking of children, criminalising parents and churches who taught or used this method of disciplining children. The ACDP firstly succeeded in alerting the public and ensuring that the controversial nature of this clause was felt enough to split the bill in two with the offending clause being placed in the part of the Bill that would be dealt with later as an amendment. When the amendment was before Parliament some years later, the ACDP managed to convince the committee that it was in everyone’s best interests to remove the controversial clause. If the ACDP had not existed during that time, no-one would have fought to protect the right of parents and churches to hold and practice their beliefs. Child abuse is a problem in South Africa and we must use the laws we have in place, to deal with it. Spending budgets meant for families and children at risk on disciplining parents and churches who are not vulnerable or in need of this kind of attention would be tragic.
The Women’s Empowerment and Equity (WEGE) Bill is another example of how important it is that a political party – committed to ensuring that the church and religious communities are free from government interference – has a strong presence in Parliament. Without the relevant opposition and submissions this legislation would have allowed the Minister to place onerous burdens on – not only business – but charities, NGOs and Churches. The ACDP, working with FORSA managed to get a definition changed and averted another attempt to curtail Religious freedom in South Africa.