“The exercise of the right to vote is a sacred duty. The Church expects voters to make sound moral judgements based on the truths and tenets of our faith. Remember that responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your discernment on who to vote for. Pray that God may raise up great candidates for our country.” —Bishop Victor Phalana, SACBC Justice and Peace Commission
Things to remember about voting…
Your vote is secret: No matter what anyone says, nobody will ever know who you voted for. You do not put your name or your ID number on the voting paper, so it cannot be linked to you.
Don’t let anyone buy your vote: Be careful of parties that promise you something if you attend their events, or wear their t-shirts, or vote for them. Selling your support in this way will not help you. It is better to give your vote freely.
You can split your vote: You have two votes – one for the national parliament, and one for the province that you live in. You don’t have to vote for the same party in both cases.
Thinking about which party to vote for…
Be careful about promises: At election time politicians like to make big promises – about creating jobs, ending poverty, getting rid of corruption, and so on. It is easy to promise these things, but much more difficult to make them happen. Ask yourself if these promises are meant honestly, or if they are just a way of capturing your vote.
Look at who is on the party lists: We vote for parties, but the parties send individuals to parliament to be our MPs. Who are these people? You can find out who they are by looking at the lists published on www.elections.org.za. Be careful about giving your vote to those who have shown themselves to be incompetent or corrupt.
Understand their policies: Some parties have good speakers; others can organise inspiring rallies. But can they actually govern the country? And do they know how to put these policies into practice?
There are many important issues: The economy, distribution of land, poverty and inequality are all important issues affecting South Africans. We should not just pick one of these as the most important ‘single issue’. Which party do you think has the best approach to dealing with these?
A spiritual preparation for voting…
- Come to the decision with openness to where God may lead you.
- Gather information by reading and asking questions of the parties you are considering voting
- Consider which party seems to be thinking and acting most closely to the values of Jesus.
- Ask which party is most likely to serve the common good – not just my interests.
- Make a tentative decision and offer it to God in prayer, talk to God about your decision.
- Look for a sense of deep peace – this is a clue that you have discerned
This has been adapted from a pamphlet issued by The Southern African Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Department, Jesuit Institute South Africa and Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office generously supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.