Home Perspectives & Other Resources SA ELECTIONS: BEFORE, DURING & AFTER


By Gustav Krös

On Wednesday, 29 May South Africa will have its general election for a new National Assembly, and new provincial legislatures for each of the nine provinces. The election is building up to be the most hotly contested of the past 30 years. The ANC (African National Congress) has ruled the country since the first democratic election was held in 1994, but their popularity has been decreasing with every election since 2004. In the 2009 election the ANC won with 65.9% of the votes compared to 69.7% back in 2004. In 2014 it went down to 62.2% and with the last election in 2019 they won with 57.5% of the votes.

This trend is expected to continue as more people are becoming disillusioned with the ruling party. What tends to hurt the ANC even more during this election is the fact that this disillusionment has also contributed to new breakaway parties forming that will potentially take even more votes away from them. This has led many to conclude that the ANC might get less than 50% of the vote for the first time since 1994.

A more balanced political landscape will certainly have its benefits for the prosperity of the country in the future, but at the same time it could also lead to an increase of political violence. With a party like the ANC dominating the political landscape for so many years, with the winning percentages it has garnered, the opposition easily submits to their governing authority. But with the ANC becoming weaker and their winning margin expected to drop quite considerably, the potential of other parties challenging the election results increases. And even though there are proper channels through which results could be challenged and verified, South Africa unfortunately has a rife spirit of violence operating within it.

World Population Review rates South Africa as the country with the third-highest crime rate in the world and it states that, “South Africa has a notably high rate of assaults, rape, homicides, and other violent crimes. This has been attributed to several factors, including high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, and social exclusion, and the normalization of violence.” This normalisation of violence within South African society leads to the concern that a closely contested election will not necessarily be dealt with in a peaceful manner but would rather have a violent outflow.

In relation to this, the Mail & Guardian reported on 21 May that “South Africa recorded 35 assassinations during the first four months of 2024, of which 10 were political killings, an average of one hit every two weeks, raising concerns about a risk of political violence as candidates vie for posts after the 29 May elections.”

In the midst of this reality, an estimated 77.1% of people in South Africa claim to be Christian. It is thus quite concerning to think that a country with such a large Christian population can simultaneously be the country with the third highest crime rate, and although one can have long debates regarding this equation, the question that Christians need to answer now is how to contribute towards peace during the upcoming election and thereafter.

Before the election
First and foremost, one cannot over emphasize the need for prayer during this time and it should therefore be part of every Christian’s contribution to pray for peace during the election. We know that we do not fight a physical battle but a spiritual battle, as Ephesians 6:12 reeminds us, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Therefore, physical violence we see is thus merely an outflow of the spiritual battle raging across the nation. If we want to thwart the impact of physical violence in the country, we need to address it at its root in the spiritual realm through prayer.

Another area that needs to be addressed in prayer before the election is who you should vote for. Do you decide for yourself, or do you submit to God in all things, including who you should vote for? Surely, we want His will to be done in our lives and in the country, and so we should humbly ask Him for His guidance in this process. It will certainly be more testing for some than for others to lay down their vote before God and ask Him what He wants them to do with it. But if our trust is truly in Him and not in our earthly leaders, then we should also trust Him to tell us who He wants us to vote for.

During the election
On the day of the election, we will stand in queues together with other people from our communities, waiting to cast our votes. Some of the people you might know while others will be complete strangers, but during this time, conversations are sure to take place. This will be the perfect opportunity to be a voice of peace and hope in the midst of an uncertain future. It will be a platform to speak to people you might never have the opportunity to speak to again, and we certainly want to make use of it.

For some Christians this might be very intimidating, but now you have the time to pray about it before election day. Pray that God will position you next to the people to whom He wants you to be a witness. You won’t necessarily know the struggles, pain, or fear the people standing next to you are busy wrestling with. Pray that He will strengthen you and give you the courage to speak words of peace and hope which He will lay in your mouth. This will be an opportunity to testify that even though we cast our votes for earthly rulers, we know that our true hope lies in the Eternal Ruler, and that our future is secure with Him forever.

After the election
It is during the time that the election results are made known that there will be the greatest threat of violence breaking out. Church leaders and Christians should thus make use of whatever platforms they have to be a voice of peace and hope during this time. At the same time, they should be an example of accepting and respecting the authority that has been placed over them.

As Paul writes in Romans 13:1-2 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

We should thus be ambassadors of His Kingdom in word and in deed, no matter what the outcome of the election is. May we continue to keep our focus on our eternal hope, which is Jesus Christ coming on the clouds, to fetch His bride. And may we not give the devil a foothold to steer us off course due to election results not going our preferred way. Ultimately, we acknowledge that God deposes kings and raises up others (Dan 2:21) and we must maintain our witness unto Him, no matter which earthly rulers He positions over us.