JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — President Jacob Zuma has warned voters that they risk angering their ancestors and could even go to hell if they don’t choose the ruling African National Congress party in upcoming local elections.
While the ANC will win in most of the country, the party faces strong opposition and losses in some important areas, including the Nelson Mandela Bay metro area in the Eastern Cape province.
Ancestors will be upset if the ANC loses this key battleground in the May 18 vote, Zuma said on Friday.
"The ancestors will be upset if Nelson Mandela Bay is lost because this is the home of the ANC," Zuma told a crowd of about 25,000 people, the South African Press Agency reports.
The ANC has been criticized within its own ranks for controversial appointments of mayoral and ward election candidates. The party has also been attacked by opposition parties for its poor record of “service delivery,” referring to the provision of basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.
South Africa regularly sees violent “service delivery” protests in the townships by residents frustrated by the lack of progress in their living conditions, 17 years since the first free elections were held after the collapse of apartheid.
President Zuma on Thursday said that ancestors will turn against those who leave the ANC party for the opposition.
"The ancestors will turn their backs against you and you will be bad luck forever if you leave the ANC unhappy," he said while campaigning near Lichtenburg in North West province, SAPA reports.
Zuma has drawn widespread criticism from opposition parties and religious groups for saying that only ANC voters go to heaven.
"When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven,” he told supporters in February, the Johannesburg Times reported.
"When you don't vote for the ANC, you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork, who cooks people,” he said.
On several occasions, Zuma has said that the ANC will rule until the coming of Christ, and that voting for the ANC will get you into heaven.