AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Justice and Peace Commission publishes election handbook

Friday, 15 December 2023 elections   justice   peace   bishops  

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - "Citizen education is an essential part of any democratic society," says the handbook prepared by the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Southern Africa (SACBC), which brings together the Bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Eswatini, issued in advance of the 2024 elections. " "By providing citizens with the necessary knowledge and understanding of the electoral process, people are empowered to exercise their democratic rights and actively contribute to shaping the future of their country", the handbook says. "While the Church does not endorse specific political candidates or parties, she provides guidance and principles to help Catholics engage in the political process in a manner consistent with their faith and the common good. The Church encourages the faithful to actively participate in the political process, including voting in elections. She views political involvement as a means to promote the common good and to contribute to the building of a just society", said the Justice and Peace Commission. The handbook describes the South African constitutional system, which is based on separation of powers and democratic elections, and highlights the role of the electoral body as a key component of the constitutional framework. "In a democracy, citizens play a crucial role in shaping the governance and functioning of their country, through voting, participating in political processes, holding elected officials accountable, informing themselves and engaging in informed discussions, respecting the rule of law, volunteering and participating in civic activities and exercising rights and freedoms responsibly", it continues. "Their active participation, engagement, and responsible exercise of rights are fundamental to maintaining a healthy and vibrant democratic system".
The election, which is planned for next year in South Africa (the date has not yet been set), is about the replacement of the parliament and the provincial bodies. The electorate, meanwhile, appears to be disengaged as it faces corruption, crime and unemployment. Analysts expect voter turnout to be even lower than the 49% recorded in the last election in 2019. It is expected that most eligible citizens who will not vote will be from the generation born after 1994 (when apartheid ended and the first truly inclusive elections for the entire South African population were held). It's possible that less than a quarter of this generation will vote. According to the Electoral Commission (IEC), there are about 27 million registered voters, of which about 10 million belong to the 18-29 and 30-39 age groups. At the heart of the electorate's concerns are the country's difficult economic situation (high unemployment, high inflation, constant power outages), the high crime rate and political corruption, which is seen as the main cause of South Africa's ills. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 15/12/2023)