2014-05-07 16:03:43

Fr. Blaser: "May South African elections bring hope to the country"

(Vatican Radio) The people of South Africa are voting in general elections which also mark 20 years since the end of apartheid.

The African National Congress (ANC) is expected to win, with Jacob Zuma as President for a second five-year term.

Amongst those voting is a new generation of so-called “Born-Frees” – those who were born after 1994 and never knew the injustice of the apartheid system, but opinion polls show there is widespread disaffection with the country's leadership.

Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to Father Emile Blaser, Director of Radio Veritas in Johannesburg about the state of the nation and about his hopes for the outcome of the vote…

Listen to the interview… RealAudioMP3

Fr Emile Blaser says the country has been going through “interesting times” and speaks of the run-up to the election which saw the breaking of the huge “Nkandla Scandal” which saw President Zuma spend the equivalent of 23 million US dollars of tax-payers money on a sumptuous private residence, a scandal which raised many anti-government feelings among the population as well as (unheeded) calls for Zuma to step down.

Fr Blaser says the scandal will have an effect on the election although the ANC will undoubtedly win, perhaps with a slightly lower percentage than originally foreseen.

Fr. Blaser explains who are the main parties and the candidates in the running. They include the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), launched last year by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, who hopes to get its first parliamentary seats with its anti-government campaign.

Then – he says - the ANC's main challenger is the Democratic Alliance (DA), the liberal pro-business party led by anti-apartheid activist , which is trying to make inroads into the black electorate, and the Agang party of anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele who suffered a serious political set-back just recently.
He explains that there is also a group of former ANC members led by ex-Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils who have called on people to choose one of the smaller opposition parties or spoil their ballots to remind the ANC that they've got to serve the people of the country and not themselves.
Undermining the political scene Father Blaser says is the “corruption” issue.
But he also points to lingering racism, to xenophobia – all things he says “that we would like to sweep under the carpet. But they are there – and will undoubtedly have an impact on the vote as well”.
After a detailed analysis of the complex situation in what is seen as an “emerging nation” and definitely as a land of opportunity for many poor Africans who continue to flock to the country in search of work, Fr Blaser says he hopes “the elections are going to bring hope, because I believe that in South Africa we are living in an age of despair, and that is sad”.

“Twenty years down the line we thought we were free, Nelson Mandela and all he stood for, his Presidency and the birth of a new nation: there was so much hope”.

But – he says – “a lot of that hope has been lost, it’s been destroyed”

“ I would like to see that whoever gets into Parliament brings in a whole new crew that will give a new face to the government in South Africa, to the political situation. That people may really feel there is hope in the future… especially for the poor, and that concrete steps be taken to root out corruption, bribery and so on”

“My wish” – concludes Father Blaser - “is to see a new South Africa where there is hope for the future”.

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