Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's comments about heaven and hell during voter registration in the Eastern Cape were not blasphemous and were not meant to intimidate, the African National Congress said on Sunday.
“The figurative weekend expression by the president remains figurative and metaphoric,” party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.
“We are, therefore, in agreement with the president that not voting for the ANC is tantamount to throwing your vote in burning hell,” he said.
Mthembu was referring to Zuma's speech to voters over the weekend, in which he likened voting for the ANC to choosing to go to heaven, and voting for another party to choosing the devil.
Zuma said that if people carried an ANC membership card they were blessed because it meant they would be let through to heaven.
He also equated the ANC's track record, history and policies to the goodness of heaven.
The Democratic Alliance on Sunday said that ordinary South Africans would find Zuma's comments offensive and unacceptable.
“His words are incendiary and dangerous, in that they seek to mobilise along religious lines, and sow seeds of division in our communities.
“Indeed, this is an act of shameless political and religious blackmail - the sort of political skulduggery that may be the norm in autocracies, but that should be anathema to our constitutional democracy.
“Mr Zuma should apologise unreservedly for these remarks.”
Mthembu said that South Africans, both black and white, fully understood the use of Zuma's figurative expressions and the context in which it was used.
“Those who are ‘alarmed’ by his expression are probably driven by jealousy for not having thought of the expression themselves,” Mthembu said. - Sapa