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Invoking the wrath of the gods

Isn't it astonishing how the closer we get to elections, the closer our politicians become to their ancestors? In fact, judging by the way they are mouthing off in the media, I'm almost convinced that they have a hotline to wherever it is that these all-knowing spirits may gather.
One would imagine that after having lived a full life that one's ancestors deserve to put up their tired feet and rest in eternal peace - but not so during the months before South Africa's citizenry heads to the ballots to cast their all-important votes.

In fact, conversing with the long departed now seems as ordinary as political party floor crossing, with our president sternly cautioning disgruntled ANC members against leaving the party, forewarning those who depart that they will attract nothing less than fire and brimstone.

Unveiling the party's provincial manifesto in the Eastern Cape earlier this week, President Jacob Zuma slapped his badly behaved comrades soundly on the wrists. "It is wrong to leave the ANC. In fact, it is cold and rough outside the ANC."

Going enviably further than simply engaging with the ancestors, the president displayed a far broader network of contacts. He told a rally in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape a few years ago that "even God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by the pastors when it was formed."

And as if this type of name-dropping in the curse department wasn't enough, he told his May 2011 audience in Phola outside Lichtenburg that these very same ancestors would "turn their backs against you" and - to add even further insult to injury - "you will have bad luck forever if you leave the ANC."

Again invoking the curse of a higher power, the president told the 33rd Presbyterian Synod in Giyani, Limpopo in October last year that there was "a connection between the government and God's church. If you don't respect those in leadership, if you don't respect authority, then you are bordering on a curse."

You have to give it to this man. He clearly has the political prototype of the country's crystal ball, because no less than a few weeks ago he vowed that the ANC will rule South Africa "forever."

Another politician not adverse to mixing religion with politics, is dapper ANC Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa. Pointing to the painted 'Vote ANC' sign on a hill behind the Lucas Moripe Stadium west of Pretoria, he told his audience: "Gauteng belongs to the ANC, as you can see by the writing on the mountain."

And to drive his message home during launch of the ANC's Gauteng election manifesto earlier this month, he added: "I don't know who wrote that, it could be God or our gods, but as you know in our culture, mountains do not lie. Let's go and campaign so that the story that is being told on that mountain is true."

I can't say I'm sure the commander in chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, would agree with the ANC's divine right to rule. I'd think that he and his merry Red Beret Brigade probably have their own enviable network of contacts - six foot under or otherwise.

On the other side of the political spectrum, DA leader Helen Zille charged a few years ago that the president's words combined "blasphemy, intimidation and blackmail. His words are incendiary and dangerous in that they seek to mobilise along religious lines and sow seeds of division in our communities."

So enough with the politicos. I'm interested in what the men of the cloth think of the dubious role of politics in the sphere of eternal rewards. Frothing with righteous indignation, the Dean Ministries website lashes out at the "shameful" use of the name of Jesus to win votes.

Quoting liberally from various biblical scriptures, the weighty prose roundly concludes: "Claiming that voting for another party will upset the ancestors is a clear demonstration that the ANC don't have a Christian bone in their body and will use and abuse the religious beliefs of anybody in order to score a few votes.

"There is no record that Jesus chose any political sides in his day" it sums up.

Don't you just love South African politics? The run-up to the elections promises to be riveting.

About Janine Lazarus

Janine Lazarus is a South African journalist and interviewer of top names in the news, public figures and celebrities. Follow @JanineLazarus on Twitter.

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