The furore over President Jacob Zuma’s claims that an ANC membership card was a passport to heaven and a vote for the opposition was a vote for the devil continued on Monday, with the SA Council of Churches asking for an urgent meeting with him to discuss his “problematic” statements.
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08 February 2011 at 20:33 - Posted by Anonymous
‘Heaven vote’ furore continues
But the ANC’s chaplain-general rushed to Zuma’s defence, saying he had not intended to cause offence and the outcry by opposition parties, which escalated on Monday, reflected a failure to understand “the concept of heaven”.
“The alarm and the hullabaloo by African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Kenneth Meshoe, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille and others over the president’s metaphoric expression should be viewed as nothing else but lack of broad understanding of the concept of heaven,” said the Rev Dr Vukile Mehana.
“The ANC Office of the Chaplain-General would like to give clarity on the Biblical and theological context in the use of the words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’,” he said. “We fully share the ANC view that the expression used by the president was figurative - similar to other popular phrases like “marriage made in heaven”, “heavenly voices” and “sweets from heaven” - and also find it important that we further explain the biblical context.
“While the popular Christian understanding of heaven is equated to a physical place, theologically heaven can also mean the presence of God.
“When the president urged citizens to vote for the ANC, equating that with heaven, he meant that voters theologically may miss the opportunity of being in the presence of God if they do not vote for the ANC.
“In using the word ‘hell’, the president did not mean eternal damnation of anybody but missing an opportunity of being in heaven in a theological sense. The ANC as a movement that was born on the altar respects all forms of religion, and its president has not and will never insult such an important social force.”
The SACC said it would not support any party using the name of God to garner votes.
Zuma made the comments during an impromptu rally in Mtatha in the Eastern Cape at the weekend.
“It’s the second time he uses the name of the Lord in vain during campaigns for his party. It has angered and irritated most of the church leaders,” said SACC president Jo Seoka.
Seoka said the SACC had sent an email to Zuma requesting a meeting. It urged him to withdraw his comments and apologise to the country.
Zuma reportedly said: “When you (carry) an ANC membership card you are blessed. When you get up there, there are different cards used but when you have an ANC card, you will be let through to go to heaven. When (Jesus) fetches us we will find (those in the beyond) wearing black, green and gold.”
In 2009 Zuma repeatedly told crowds on his campaign trail the ANC would rule “until Jesus comes”.
Seoka said the council had previously dismissed Zuma’s statement as a “slip of the tongue” but could not ignore his recent “deceptive and blasphemous” comments.
Seoka said it was expected of the government and Zuma as leader to be responsible for the welfare of its people.
“We won’t be supporting any party that uses the Lord’s name to canvas votes. It’s unacceptable. We want to say to political leaders to be sensitive when they campaign.”
However, they would forgive Zuma if he repented.
More opposition parties weighed in against Zuma on Monday, saying rather than getting a free pass to heaven, ANC supporters were experiencing “hell on earth”.
ACDP president Rev Kenneth Meshoe was “disappointed and shocked” that Zuma should “mislead and deceive South Africans”. He asked for a retraction and apology, saying Zuma’s comments were a “weak strategy” to regain lost trust. “He now resorts to fear tactics; attempts to brainwash voters by playing on their fears about the unknown future.
“We appeal to the president to desist from abusing and dishonouring the Christian faith by bringing it down to the level of cheap politics.”
ID parliamentary leader Joe Mcgluwa said: “The government has a bad record of service delivery … with all these failures, hopeful people have continued to vote for the ANC, but all that they are experiencing are broken promises and hell on earth.”
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Zuma’s utterances were a clear indication the ANC would not play by the rules when campaigning.
It was “ironic” that the DA and ANC, who had endured criticism for their “un-Christian views on abortion”, now proclaimed Christian views before the election, said Pieter Mulder, Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader. - Political Bureau
February 8 2011 at 07:41am
By Michelle Pietersen