Is Christian Politics in SA Dead?
South Africa’s fourth Democratic General Elections signalled a seismic shift in the political landscape. New political parties entered the fray, garnering convincing support, while more established parties were decimated at the polls.
Despite its controversy-plagued leader, the ANC won outrightly, increasing its overall support by 770 000 votes since 2004. The DA increased its share of the vote from 12% in 2004 to almost 17% in 2009 and won the Western Cape province with an outright majority of 51% for the first time. The Congress of the People (COPE) who launched its challenge to the ruling party with much fanfare in December 2008, managed to garner a respectable 7,41% of the national ballot or 1 311 027 votes.
However, the DA’s success at the polls and the introduction of COPE spelt disaster for smaller political parties. The IFP, ID, UDM and ADCP all lost significant support from the electorate.
The final demise?
The generally poor performance of all Christian parties at the polls have caused political pundits to predict the final demise of faith-based politics in South Africa. A survey conducted regarding the lack of support for Christian parties found that a major issue in the minds of Christian voters was the lack of unity between Christian politicians. What I concluded from the comments received from Christian voters across the country (including those who voted for non-Christian parties), is that the disunity and lacklustre leadership within Christian politics proved to be its Achilles heel. Most voters are not even aware of the other Christian parties out there (bar the ACDP).
Garnering more votes
In 1994 the DA, known then as the DP won just 1.73% of the vote. During the 1999 Elections their support rocketed to 9.56%. Those gains were subsequently consolidated and increased to 12.37% in 2004 through a strategic change of leadership and an effective election campaign. This year the DA under the leadership of Helen Zille, improving on its previous gains to 16.66%.
ACDP losing support
The ACDP entered South African politics in 1994 with just 0.45% of the vote, representing 88 104 votes nationally. In 1999 the party increased that to 228 975 votes or 1.43% of the national ballot. The ACDP’s best performance was in 2004 when it won 250 272 votes or 1.6% of the vote. Tragically, however, following that encouraging performance the party was wracked by internal conflicts and floor crossings that reduced their 7 seat peak in the National Assembly to just 4. As a result of this, the ACDP saw approx. 107 614 voters migrate to non-Christian parties.
change of status quo needed
An obvious difference between the DA and ACDP is the DA’s lack of internal conflicts, splits and static leadership. The party’s ability to read its electorate and respond strategically has also contributed positively to its consistent growth since 1994. The dismal performance of Christian parties at the polls this past Elections does not signal a rejection of Christian politics, but rather its presentation and performance during the past decade. Christian political parties are faced with the same challenges all other political parties have to contend with.
And that is to maintain the confidence and trust of its supporters to ensure its growth and success. As the South African political landscape constantly evolves to meet new challenges and opportunities, political parties must stay abreast of new challenges and transform themselves accordingly to remain relevant.
The results of the 2009 Elections is a strong indication that political parties who failed to understand this principle will invariably face extinction.
JOY! Magazine further believes that the performance of the ACDP is due to three significant factors. (1) The growing hostility of Christians towards Christian parties. It is sad to see that there are so many informed Christians who did not vote according to Biblical principles and effectively empowered a ‘strong opposition party’ that supports anti-Christian policies. Christians who justify endorsing a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage party is saddening.
(2) The lack of support by churches who refused to give the ACDP public encouragement (or even, to just preach on why and how people should vote according to Biblical principles) was disappointing.
(3) The lack of ‘presence’ of the ACDP. This is a valid concern, though Christians must not be ignorant of the deliberate decision of the secular media to exclude Christians (and by default the ACDP) from receiving any media coverage. Without support from Christians, churches and the media, how can one expect to see media presence? The onus is on Christians to investigate what the Christian parties are doing on a grass-roots level, and not to rely on media coverage alone.
We commend the Christian politicians for their efforts and encourage them to continue upholding our Faith in parliament and to keep their eyes on Jesus. You play a vital role and South Africa needs your influence.