SACBC PASTORAL LETTER: 2019 General Election

A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa
to the Catholic Community and all People of Goodwill.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“…Remembering the mercies of God … let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature.” (Romans 12:1-2)

In this spirit, we pray that the upcoming Elections will constitute a further step both in bringing about the kind of society God desires for us and in giving us leaders, men and women of integrity who will build that society.

Twenty-five years after the memorable elections of 1994, we celebrate that we have been able both to defend and to develop our democracy. We are grateful to good and honest people who have worked heroically and selflessly in the service of the nation. We are thankful also that the foundational institutions of our democracy have stood the test of time.

Sadly, we have also come to see a darker side of political life. Recent Commissions of Enquiry have and are exposing individuals in both the political and corporate sectors who have tragically betrayed the public trust and placed their own self-interest ahead of the common good of the country.

The General Election of May 8th presents all South Africans with the opportunity to renew our vision for South Africa. We have the power to choose the direction our country will take. It is imperative that we choose wisely and courageously and not be distracted by false promises.

Tough questions that seek honesty and truth

Our primary concern as your spiritual leaders is that we choose leaders who will promote the good of all by living the values of the Constitution in the light of the Gospel. Pope Francis urges us to look for “politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” (Evangelii Gaudium, 205).

In this context we ask you: who do you think would –
eradicate corruption more effectively
provide realistic programmes to overcome unemployment and poverty?
appoint selfless public servants as leaders at national and provincial level?
effectively reduce the level of violence tyrannising our people?
transform those attitudes and practices which underlie the violence against women and children?
respond effectively to the aspirations of our youth?
fulfil the promises they make rather than disappoint us?
protect our democracy and its institutions?
In short, who do you think would make us proud to be South Africans?
Each one must answer these questions according to their conscience.

We are challenged not to vote only to advance our own personal interests, be they interests of race, ethnic group or social and economic class. Rather we are called to vote in a way that will promote the common good.
Let us keep in mind the poor, the unemployed and the disadvantaged – it is Our Lord who reminds us that, whatever we do to the least of His brothers and sisters, we do to Him. (Mt 25:40)

A call for peaceful, free and fair elections

We each have a grave responsibility to create the environment of tolerance and acceptance which enables every South African to support and vote for the party that they choose, without fear of violence and intimidation. While this responsibility falls heavily on the political parties and the media, we urge the organs of State to proactively ensure the safety of all.

It is also the responsibility of each one of us to work for peaceful and free and fair elections.

We therefore urge political parties:
to refrain from inflammatory, intimidating and inappropriate statements;
to take visible, decisive action when candidates and their supporters are involved in acts of intolerance, intimidation, harassment and disturbance;
to respect the election results;
to do everything to ensure that the rule of law is respected.

We call on the media:
to refrain from sensationalism,
to report appropriately and responsibly for the benefit of the common good.

We call on you, Brothers and Sisters, to assist the Independent Electoral Commission, to monitor these elections by doing the following:
volunteering as observers,
assisting with conflict management.

A call to prayer

Let us pray for peaceful elections that produce leaders who will always act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with their God. (Micah 6:8)

We invite you to recite this prayer in your families and parishes as we prepare for the elections and also during the elections.

Almighty Father,
As we approach the elections, grant us the wisdom and courage we need
in order to make the right choices.
Help us to carry out our duties as responsible citizens with respect for the rights of others.
By voting in a spirit of humility and service, may we bring hope to the poor,
unity to all our people and a more secure and peaceful future for our children.
Father, do not allow us to become discouraged,
Inspire us to contribute to the rebuilding of our country with vigour and generosity.

Recalling our opening words from Scripture:
“… let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature…” (Romans 12:1-2)
we invoke God’s blessing upon you all and upon our nation.

Your Bishops, gathered at Mariannhill Retreat Centre, in Plenary Assembly, 12 February 2019.

Archbishop Jabulani Nxumalo OMI – Bloemfontein
Archbishop Stephen Brislin – Cape Town
Bishop Adam Musialek SCJ- De Aar
Bishop Graham Rose- Dundee
Archbishop Coadjutor Abel Gabuza – Durban
Father Sifiso Ntshangase for Bishop Xolelo Kumalo – Eshowe
Bishop Sigfried Jwara CMM – Ingwavuma
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI – Johannesburg
Bishop Edward Risi OMI – Keimoes-Upington
Bishop Victor Phalana – Klerksdorp
Bishop Zolile Mpambani SCJ – Kokstad
Bishop peter Holiday – Kroonstad
Bishop Mlungisi Dlungwane – Mariannhill
Bishop Sithembele Sipuka – Mthatha
Father John Atkinson – Administrator of Oudsthoorn
Bishop Jeremiah Masela- Polokwane
Bishop Vincent Zungu OFM – Port Elizabeth
Archbishop William Slattery OFM – Pretoria
Bishop Dabula Mpako – Queenstown
Bishop Kevin Dowling CSsR – Rustenburg
Bishop Joao Rodrigues – Tzaneen
Father Molewe Machingoane for Bishop Joe Sandri MCCJ – Witbank