S. Africa politicians urge mass voter turnout

JOHANNESBURG – South African politicians seized the opportunity availed by the Easter holidays to visit churches and encourage citizens to vote in May elections, an appeal that comes days after two former ruling party figures launched a campaign urging voters to spoil their ballots.

"Although we are not here to campaign for elections, I encourage you to vote," Floyd Shivambu of the Economic Freedom Fighters political party was quoted as saying by The Citizen newspaper while attending Easter Sunday services, along with other politicians, at the Tirano Apostle Church South of Johannesburg.

"And it must be a vote that guarantees us a better future; that guarantees us that we will have this land without paying for it," he said.

Deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) Cyril Ramaphosa told worshippers at the same church to pray for peaceful elections on May 7 and for the government and President Jacob Zuma.

"I am here to plead that you pray for our government. Pray that all spheres of government continue to deliver a better life for all," he said.

On Friday, Zuma himself addressed over 50,000 worshippers at the Universal Church of God, who converged on a stadium in Johannesburg, calling on his fellow South Africans to go the polls on May 7.

The Easter holiday pleas followed last week's launch of the "Vote No" campaign by two former ANC officials who urged voters to spoil their ballots to protest corruption and poor governance.

"We are calling on registered voters to either vote tactically for minority parties or spoil their ballots by writing 'NO' across the ballot paper," Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, a former deputy health minister, told reporters last week at the campaign's official launch at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand.

She said the campaign was aimed at sending a warning to the ANC – and to the main opposition party – not to take voters for granted.

"We started off with the ANC as the popular people's movement, which was about putting people first," Madlala-Routledge recalled.

"And what do we see now?" asked the former official. "We see our leaders putting themselves first."

Nearly 20 million registered voters will go to the polls on May 7 to elect lawmakers for South Africa's National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, a co-sponsor of the "Vote No" campaign, asserted that former presidents and ANC leaders Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki had not been tempted to amass personal wealth, admitting that he had not voted for the ANC in the previous election.

Madlala-Routledge cited the recent controversy over $23 million worth of security upgrades made to Zuma's rural home in South Africa's KwaZulu Natal province.

"There is absolutely no way that a person can justify the expenditure of the security upgrades of the president's home," she said.

"Of course, our president needs to be secured. But at times I ask myself, who [does] he fear in Nkandla?" she asked.

The former official wondered if the president was afraid of hungry people who might come knocking at his gate.

"But our struggle was exactly about taking our people out of hunger and unemployment," she said.

"This ['Vote No'] campaign is giving our people back their power; their voice will be amplified," she added.

South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela recently accused the president of using substantial amounts of public money to renovate his presidential home in Nkandla.

The renovation was supposed to have cost the state some $2.5 million. But with lavish upgrades – including a swimming pool, cattle kraal and visitor's center – the total cost skyrocketed to a whopping $23 million.

Madonsela has since ordered the president to repay the money spent on unnecessary upgrades. But Zuma has refused to pay back the money, saying he never requested the upgrades.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency