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A Pastoral Letter on Elections: 2009

Introductory Greetings

The KwaZulu Natal Christian Council (KZNCC), the ecumenical movement in KwaZulu Natal (KZN), the Church leadership of KZN, at this hour of the electioneering period in KZN brings you greetings and encouragement through this pastoral letter on elections in KZN and South Africa, 2009. The purpose of the pastoral letter, addressed to member churches and the entire population of KZN, is to support legitimate democratic processes around elections which assimilate the general principles and images of the reign of God in our time and the contemplated future of the peace and justice of God.

It is this estimation of the future of God that inspires us to engage the world to realise the gift of freedom which God has given us in God’s sacrifice on the cross for all humanity. This we want to express in the very fragile context of the dynamics of our present political situation in the province of KZN. This pastoral letter is structured in this manner. It commences with a historical description of where we have been to where we are politically, socially, culturally and economically in KZN.

On the basis of the backdrop and historical achievements and failures the faithful and the people of KZN are reminded about the principles of a prosperous and free democracy. When that shall have been expatiated we then look at the present political situation and suggest what the role of the people of faith and people of KZN can jointly and severally do and conclude what the envisaged out comes of these national and provincial elections of 2009. With this we greet you all. The peace of God is with you all.

Executive Summary

Conservatively the province of KwaZulu Natal has tasted relative peace and prosperity at least in the past despite the spoliations of experienced crime and corruption. The people of faith and the people of KZN must defend the democratic freedoms and the achievement we have made especially when it comes to elections times where most of these freedoms are susceptible to abuse and violation. The present’s political violent upheavals must be contained and bracketed immediately in cooperation with law enforcement agencies. The rule of law at this time of elections must be upheld. And this pastoral letter ends by suggesting our expectations of the outcomes of these elections in terms of the leadership we are looking forward to – people of political will who will seriously honor their promises to the poor and the voters.

History and Background in View of KwaZulu Natal

In comparison to all the past successive elections the political climate of province of KwaZulu Natal has gradually shown some relative stability. It has been acknowledged, that there has been a growing political maturity among the peoples and many political parties in our province. The levels of political tolerance especially between the elections’ periods have been recognizably moderate and yet relatively fragile.

Besides the questions of the alleged rise in crime and corruption, there has been some sizable growth in the economy and attempts were made to share the economic
opportunities of the province with its entire people though unsatisfactorily. Needless to say that there have been incidents of chauvinism and sexism, KZN was involved in seeking solutions to these cultural and gender imbalances.

The province of KZN has been responsive to the natural disasters – floods, storms and felt-fires which weighed down upon our province. Though none of these responses may be deemed sufficient – it would be unreasonable to say that they have not been any responsiveness on the part of the people of KZN.

In view of this historical backdrop we call upon the people of faith to pray for the continuation of the political, economic, cultural and religious stabilization of our province. We call upon all of us to pursue the path of righteousness and justice for all especially the poor, the homeless and the landless among us. We implore the potential incoming powers that would be to built on the achievements of the past and have courage to take on the challenges of the past and the future with political will informed by justice for the poor and marginalised – translated quality service delivery all the time and every time.

Principles of a Prosperous and Free Democracy

What are at stake are the foundations or principles of a prosperous and successful democracy. After naming some, this letter would like to quote the ones which are most vulnerable in the light of the current and emerging political violence in KZN as we approach the 2009 elections. In tabulation these principles are: citizen participation, equality, political tolerance, accountability, transparency, regular free and fair elections, accepting the results of elections, economic freedom, control and the abuse of power, bill of rights, human rights, multiparty system and the rule of law.

Though these principles are potentially vulnerable at various stages of governance, the ones which are particularly at risk around times and events towards actual election will be quote: Citizen Participation[I] says: All citizens of a country have a right and duty to participate in government. For example, they can stand for elections, vote in elections, debate issues, attend community meetings, and pay taxes”. Lest we forget we encourage all faith communities and people of the province of KZN to desist from any activity and utterances and schemes which may impede any of the citizens to enjoy the right to citizen participation as quoted above.

The other principle most vulnerable should we allow the climate of political violence to escalate unbridled is on political tolerance which says: “People from different cultures, religions, and beliefs and so on all have different points of view. Everyone must be allowed to express their own ideas even if these are different from the majority” (ibid.). Is this not a noble thing to do – ‘to agree to differ and differ to agree’ – or ‘do to others as you would like them to do’ without fear of reprimand, harassment, intimidation and physical violence?

The other vulnerable principle, exposed to be trampled down is one on regular, free and fair elections which says: “Citizens choose the officials they want to represent them in

government. These officials must be elected in a free and fair way, without corruption. No one should be intimidated or threatened during and election. There must also be regular elections” (ibid.). We welcome the point that we have regular elections on South Africa and KZN enjoys that as well. What we deplore as informed by this principle under discussion, is when people deliberately plan to intimidate and threaten others.

We abhor anyone who hinders others in anyway from exercising their political freedom for the realization of free and fair elections. Informed by this we call upon people of faith and the people of KZN to participate in these elections, attend meetings, register to vote and actually go to vote on the day to be announce without fear of intimidation and threats. In this instance we implore the people of faith and the people of KZN to cooperate with our law enforcement institutions to bring the perpetrators of violence and mayhem to book.

This will be in accordance to the principle of the rule of law which is also threatened by perpetrators which says: “The rule of law which says that everyone in the country, including government officials, the President, the army, must follow the law. No one is above the law. It means everyone must obey the law and must be punished for their actions if they disobey the law. The law must treat everyone equally and fairly” (ibid.). There is no way we can build a prosperous and free democracy by tolerating lawlessness.

Present Events and Proposed Suggestions

In the present time of electioneering, many political parties have articulated their election manifestos. Many political parties have signed or and must be subjected to the Electoral Code of Conduct. The whole country is a free platform for attracting would be voters for the parties of choice. There are meetings, rallies, press conference, interviews, debates and house to house electioneering. All this is good and must be done in the spirit of joy, good will and responsible citizenship. There should be no go areas for anyone in the whole country including KZN.

We propose people of good will of faith and peace loving encourage free and unfettered electioneering. We promote the leveling of the political electioneering ground and patriotism among those who will vote or be voted for despite being, independents or people nominated by various political parties. We discourage acts of arson, physical violence, hate speech, intimidation, murder of political opponents, blockages of routes to rallies, character assassinations and related undemocratic political practices and unacceptable tactics. The disruption of others’ meetings and conferences should be discouraged as well.

Expected Outcomes of the Elections

Aspects of Qualities of Any Leadership

The churches are looking for a person who accommodates and encourages open debate, one who is not vindictive, who has moral fortitude, has genuine concern for the poor and is down to earth. The meaning of these aspects of leadership is that: “Statesmanship: … involves a capacity to see beyond personal or party interests, and to have a genuine concern for all people everywhere. Moral fortitude: . implies a high standard of ethical

behavior, whether private or public, and a willingness to pursue this standard with courage, even in adversity. A genuine concern for the poor: this is a vital quality for any worthwhile leader in this country currently, where the levels of poverty are still unacceptably high …” (pastoral letter on Succession Debate, 2007).

Out of these elections of 2009, we are looking forward to democratically elected leadership in KZN and South Africa as a whole.

We must have an outcome bearing and authentic stamp of ‘free and fair’ elections.

We are looking forward to a leadership freely chosen by the people of KZN and South Africa as a whole – a leadership we can proudly say it is ours – the people of this country.

We are expecting a leadership we may engage on delivery of social services and the promises of their elections manifestos without fear of reprimand and irresponsiveness.

We are pregnant of a leadership which will listen to the people and is compassionate to the plight of the poor and rural development especially where women are struggling solely on their own.

We are envisioning a leadership with the political will to tackle issues of poverty, unemployment, SADC challenges and of international profile.

We want people who will make democracy work for the majority of the people of KZN South Africa as a whole.

Notwithstanding that when the elections results are announced all of us should accept them and should any of it be challenged leave it to the due process and legislative, legal framework to double check and sort out the obstacles for us while we keep calm and peace as law abiding citizens under the rule of law.

Issued by KZNCC

Reference Cited

Human Rights Training Manual (sin anon)

Pastoral Letter on Succession Debate. KZNCC: Pietermaritzurg, 2007.

[I] Human Rights Training Manual (sin anon).