The Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM) today launched the Charter of Election Ethics, which is aimed at encouraging ethical conduct during the campaigning for the 2019 general election.MRM chairperson, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, said during the launch that the organisation’s mission was to promote moral values to which all South Africans can aspire as a basis for nation building. “As a civil society driven movement, we facilitate and coordinate programmes that work towards restoring the moral fibre of our nation, underpinned by the philosophy of UBUNTU,” he said.
In 1994 Madiba called for the RDP of the soul thereby implying that spirituality had to be an integral element of national transformation. He decried corruption, conspicuous consumption, greed, self-enrichment, dishonesty, bribery, sexual abuse of women and children, drug trafficking and disrespect for others. Today we would add state capture. Our preoccupation with ethical values is not pie-in-the-sky.
We also concern ourselves with issues of freedom, rule of law, unemployment, poverty, social inequalities, crime, land reform, coexistence, protection of the environment, materialism and state capture. It is this commitment to the moral fibre of the nation that prompted MRM to draw up a document on election ethics which all participants in our elections should adhere to. We identified 5 key stakeholders – namely, IEC, political leaders, campaigners, voters and the media. In discharging their responsibilities they should embrace the values of honesty, fairness, accountability, transparency and absolute integrity.
This project was initiated in the 2014 general election. It continued in 2016 local government elections and also for 2019 general election. All political leaders must respect their opponents, show wisdom in selecting candidates who are committed to the Common Good. Campaigners must show maturity and learn to use rational persuasion rather than intimidation, violence or duplicity.
Campaign agents should refrain from abusing race, religion or tribalism to win votes. The media must not indulge in destructive inaccurate news and unethical coverage of news, even when its sympathies lie with a particular political ideology or manifesto. To all the stakeholders our slogan is: ‘if it is ethical to vote, it is necessary to be ethical in voting.’
Participation in this 5th general election should be an expression of a commitment to the Common Good that transcends party politics. In the spirit of promoting the common good and upholding our shared values the MRM affirms that:
Voting is a right.
Voting is your independent choice.
Voting is a moral obligation.
Voting is an act of social responsibility.
Voting is a mark of human maturity.
Voting honours the memory of Nelson Mandela and countless others whose struggle for justice brought democracy to South Africa twenty-five years ago and made it possible for us to vote today By voting you are shaping your future and that of your fellow South Africans The MRM is not naive. We are aware of certain realities about elections. They are first and foremost a contestation for political power, influence and access to state resources.
Many contestants have a tendency of taking liberties with the truth. In their robust encounters they usually indulge in hyperbole which is understandable as long as it does not degenerate into blatant dishonesty or even intimidation. About this particular election, the MRM has observed the following: Whereas the liberation election of 1994 was a simple choice between apartheid, democracy and freedom, this election is more complex. Voters have a choice among 260 registered political parties Whilst the first general election somewhat envisaged a utopian society, 25 years of democracy have unearthed diversity of interests among voters.
An interesting feature of this election is the number of young voters, especially the so called born frees. Our system has no block votes – e.g. youth, rural, women, black or white.Unlike old democracies, where voting is a periodic ritual, ours is different because we are still consolidating our democratic gains, strengthening of democratic culture and governance institutions, fighting poverty, unemployment and glaring social inequalities. In well-developed democracies their priorities are different. The role of money in our elections has become a big factor, to the extent that the dominant social classes will in future unduly influence the outcome of elections.
Hence the need to empower the poor and less educated to use their vote reasonably. As we have done in previous years, we will work closely with the IEC, organised labour, religious organisations, civil society, the media and political parties to ensure the success of this project. For example, on the one of the 2016 local government elections political parties attended the launch of our Elections project and endorsed our project in writing. We call upon the media houses and institutions to support our endeavour to ensure a free, democratic, peaceful and fair general election and to do so in honour of Nelson Mandela whose centenary we are celebrating.
MRM is ready to partner with you in hosting public debates and conversations to prepare voters for the elections. One of the most common features in elections is a propensity of campaigners to indulge in hyperbole and theatrics. The public enjoys political and vibrant political debates, especially when they are televised or broadcast on radio. They are fascinated by the cut and thrust of political engagement. Candidates of political parties are the public faces of their party election manifestoes as well as their policies.
Regrettably the campaign is getting tough, dirty and even life threatening. There is too much at stake. Granted that politics is a form of warfare without a bloody conflict, the use of dirty tricks to win an election is morally reprehensible. People’s reputations and even lives can be destroyed. MRM believes there is always life after every election. Given our past ten years traumatic experiences, the words of George Orwell should be a warning as well as an incentive to use our vote judiciously. In his own words: “A people that elect corrupt politicians are not victims – but accomplices!”