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Pretoria – On Monday, November 1, about 26 million South Africans are called to the polls for municipal elections, to choose the members of the Councils of all the municipalities in the 9 provinces in which the country is administratively divided. In a long pastoral letter published by the Conference of Bishops of South Africa before the elections, the Bishops underline that they are the occasion for “moral renewal” of the South African politicians, who must find their roots in ethical values, rather than in personal or party interests and economic leadership. By doing so, they leave room for corruption and public mistrust of the state and institutions. The Bishops recall that, in the current crisis situation, it is not necessary to resort to violent demonstrations or to boycott the elections as a sign of protest and mistrust of politics, and they therefore call on all voters to participate in the consultation, voting according to their conscience. They underline in this regard the importance of prayer, discernment of the Spirit and formation. They then ask a number of questions that citizens must answer before voting.
“The next elections – they continue – can become the first step towards the moral transformation of South African politicians if we have peaceful elections, from which will emerge leaders who will act with justice and mercy and walk humbly with their God”. To have peaceful and just elections, they call on political parties to avoid intimidating, inflammatory and inappropriate statements, to respect the results, to ensure respect for the law and to end political assassinations. The media, too, must refrain from sensationalism and report the news appropriately and responsibly, in the interest of the common good. “It is the responsibility of each of us to create an environment of tolerance which enables every South African to support and vote for the party or independent candidate of their choice, without fear of violence and intimidation”. Finally, the Bishops invite us to pray, in parishes and families, “so that the Holy Spirit will enable us to choose leaders who are upright and committed to human dignity and the common good”.