Pastor’s Corner for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

And Jesus didn’t come again.


A political leader once famously said that a certain political party would rule until Jesus came again. In case you were wondering, Jesus has not returned, despite the ground-shaking political developments in our country which happened on voting day last week.


Due to the long lines at all the voting stations, most of which were busy all day and late into the evening, many of us thought that this was the moment when South Africans of all ages and races were taking the political power out of the hands of parties and politicians, back into the hands of the people. We were wrong. The long lines were a result of poor administration and bad technology, and not because our country and fallen in love again with democracy. In fact, this election had the lowest voter turnout in 30 years, with only 58% of registered voters participating. In 1999 nearly 90% of registered voters voted, and in the 2019 election 66% of registered voters voted.


In 2024, 27.7 million people registered to vote but only 16.2 million votes were cast, giving a voter turnout of 58.64%. We may be patting ourselves on the back saying that above 50% is a pass mark, until you realise that 42.3 million were eligible to vote. In other words, only 38% of all those who were eligible to vote did so. Now 38% used to be a failure in schools, so I don’t think we should be congratulating ourselves on our voter turnout.


Put differently, when 38% of a population decides what will happen for the other 62% of the people in a country, we call that tyranny, or dictatorship. In the elections of 2024, I don’t think there were any winners. Even although it seems that there will be a peaceful transition of power, I wonder if democracy wasn’t the loser.


It is my hope that this new period of coalition politics will reignite the hope of the people of South Africa. Clean government, effective policies, efficient administration, job creation… these are the things that will restore the faith of people in democracy and encourage greater participation in our country’s democratic processes. The populist and the demagogue only come to power when government fails to meet the legitimate needs of the people.