South Africa: Church Worried After an Electoral Earthquake

Source: FSSPX News

The South Africa episcopate

The party founded by Nelson Mandela has just experienced one of its biggest political setbacks, plunging the country into worrying instability. While insecurity, violence, and the failure of state services are being felt harshly, the Catholic bishops of South Africa are calling on the faithful to calm down.

In South Africa, the weight of the Catholic Church remains modest: Catholicism brings together between four and five million inhabitants of a country of 65 million, of whom approximately 80% are Protestant.

For decades, the country has been experiencing a descent into hell: massive unemployment, decay of infrastructure, notably power cuts which have been poisoning the lives of residents for two years, and crime. On April 27, 2024, Fr. Paul Tatu, of the Institute of the Sacred Stigmata, was shot dead for passing a crime scene at the wrong time.

“This is not an isolated incident, but rather a distressing example of the deterioration of security and morality in South Africa,” lamented Sithembele Sipuka, Bishop of Umtata and president of the Episcopal Conference of Bishops of Southern Africa (SACBC), reports Vatican News.

“Electricity, water, transport, everything is collapsing... If South Africa continues on this trajectory, it risks becoming a failed state, because nothing will be able to hold the country together despite the robustness of the private sector, which still covers the mismanagement and lack of transparency of the African National Congress (ANC) government,” warned economist Lumkile Mondi, professor at the University of Witwaterstand, in Johannesburg, in May 2024, in Le Monde.

The elections were closely followed by the country's bishops, many believing that they could “mark a turning point, probably one of the most important, if not the most important, after 1994, because for the first time in 30 years, the ANC, which dominates the country, will probably not obtain the majority or will obtain it narrowly,” explained Fr. Russell Pollit director of the Jesuit Institute of Johannesburg, in an interview on Vatican Radio on election day, reports Vatican News.

In a statement issued on June 3, the prelates of the SACBC put out a general plea to avoid a possible outbreak of violence in the country. They called on all “parties to avoid utterances and behavior that could lead to acts of violence, destruction, loss of life. . .This includes making threats, inciting to violence, or spreading false information that could escalate tensions,” warn the bishops, reports The Tablet.

Because the results of the legislative elections have had the effect of a political earthquake, ratifying the end of the undivided domination of the ANC for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994. The ANC obtained only 159 deputies out of 400, or 71 less compared to the previous election, and will have to form a coalition in Parliament to retain power, notes Le Monde.

But what most surprised observers was the breakthrough of the Umkhonto we Siwze (MK) party of the country's former strongman, Jacob Zuma, accused of corruption and multiple scandals which made him relinquish power in 2018. The MK, whose electoral base is essentially made up of the Zulu ethnic group, and which is distinguished by an anti-white racist discourse, gathered 14.5% of the votes.

In the absence of an agreement with the Democratic Alliance (AD), the ANC could be tempted to find an alliance with the MK and/or with a far-left group, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is pleading, in concert with the MK, for the dispossession of lands owned by yesterday's white settlers.

In this tense context, the repeated calls for calm from the Church, which fears repercussions on its faithful, are understandable: “We pray for the wisdom of our political leaders, as they undertake delicate negotiations to determine the structure of our government. We pray that unity remains the common goal and outcome in the days to come, and that this unity will be the cornerstone of lasting peace on our land,” the statement concluded.

At the time of posting this article online, we learned of the re-election of President Cyril Ramaphosa, of the ANC. His election was made possible thanks to an agreement with the AD, while the MK has refused any discussion with the ANC.