Zion Christian Church leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane has urged South Africans to vote for “smart and intelligent” leaders who will not embezzle public funds when they go to the polls on May 7.
In an address intended to be distributed to the church’s 12 million members across South Africa and as far north as Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, which The Star received on Tuesday from a returning pilgrim, Lekganyane used his Sunday Easter service at the church’s headquarters in Moria outside Polokwane to urge voters to elect people who understood their mandate and responsibility.
Without publicly endorsing or denouncing any political party, Lekganyane urged his followers to vote intelligently.
“(Pray for) the wisdom to elect leaders who will not forget about you once you have elected them. Leaders who do not confuse public funds with theirs,” said Lekganyane.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said Lekganyane’s message was an indication that the faith-based community was beginning to rediscover its role in society.
“Remember that after 1994 they sort of kept quiet, maybe they wanted to give the ANC space,” said Mathekga.
He said even though the bishop did not single out the spending of R215 million on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, he seemed concerned about it.
“They (religious leaders) can’t mention Nkandla directly because they must maintain a nonpartisan position, but it’s a moral stance,” he added.
Another analyst, attached to Unisa, Professor Lesiba Teffo, suggested that Lekganyane’s message was directed at the “corrupt crop of leaders who are all about their stomachs”.
Teffo said he believed Lekganyane was referring to Nkandla. “He is part of the community and he is using his position to say ‘this is wrong’,” said Teffo.
Said Lekganyane: “If you think high of yourself, you will elect a high-level, smart and intelligent leadership”, citing Nelson Mandela as the epitome of good governance.
While Madiba had not been a saint, he strove for excellence, the bishop said. “He understood that his (role) was to serve the people, not himself.”
On Sunday, the bishop said the ZCC was above politics and warned “lost” politicians who wanted to canvass for votes in his church to try elsewhere.
Politicians who attended Sunday’s church service at Moria included Limpopo ANC chairman and Premier Stan Mathabatha and national ANC leaders Ngoako Ramatlhodi and Edna Molewa. They did not address the worshippers.
EFF leader Julius Malema and DA leader Helen Zille reportedly attended the ZCC’s St Engenas service next door.