President Jacob Zuma has called for "concerted action" to deal with the abuse of alcohol and drugs in Mitchells Plain. Photo: Independent Newspapers

The DA has demanded an apology from President Jacob Zuma after he again employed “religious threats for political ends”.

But an unrepentant Zuma on Sunday, through his spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, said he had been quoted out of context. “The statement … added a flare of sensation.

“The president was talking about the popularity of the ANC and (that) despite (the) emergence of smaller and splinter parties, the ANC will grow qualitatively and quantitively. It will therefore rule for a long time to come,” Kodwa said.

Zuma told Eastern Cape supporters only an ANC membership card would guarantee an automatic pass to heaven, adding that ANC supporters were blessed and that a vote for the opposition was one for the devil.

He was addressing an impromptu rally in Mthatha on Friday. His remarks echoed his 2009 election campaign statements when he repeatedly told crowds the ANC would rule “until Jesus comes”.

DA spokeswoman Lindiwe Mazibuko said on Sunday Zuma should “apologise to all South Africans for his attempt to employ religious threats for political ends”.

She said ordinary South Africans “of all backgrounds and creeds will find the president’s comments offensive and unacceptable”. His words were “incendiary and dangerous”, in that they sought to mobilise along religious lines “and sow seeds of division in our communities”.

Mazibuko called Zuma’s statements “an act of shameless political and religious blackmail, the sort of political skulduggery that may be the norm in autocracies, but should be anathema (in a) democracy”.

Zuma’s remarks have also offended Christians, with ACDP president Kenneth Meshoe labelling Zuma’s comments a disgrace and blasphemous, adding that no angels would be wearing ANC colours.

“I am shocked to hear that the president would make such a ludicrous statement. It is disappointing to hear the head of state - who should be an example of integrity - choosing to be the laughing stock of the nation by being deceptive.”

Eddie Makue, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, said it was dangerous when politicians “use people’s fate to garner support”. He said not even a priest could provide this type of guarantee (of entering heaven)”. - Political Bureau