"Play the ball and not the man!" Using this football analogy Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town urged political leaders on Wednesday to uphold a high level of moral and ethical behaviour during the run-up to the elections, and to engage with one another on politics and not personalities.
Speaking at a briefing to political party leaders at Bishopscourt, in the presence of the Premier, Archbishop Makgoba introduced members of the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC) and its coordinator, Mr Tommy Lewin. This body, composed of representatives from the religious, legal, NGO media and youth sectors has been formed under the Electoral Act to monitor the behaviour of political parties in accordance with the Electoral Code of Conduct.
"We will, like football referees, try to ensure a free and fair game,"said the Archbishop, ‘where each side can play to the very best of its abilities. And when someone plays the player, instead of playing the ball, the referee will blow his whistle!"
The Archbishop described ECCOC’s concerns about the nature of political debate. "We are distressed when we hear personal attacks and negative caricatures and when sweeping and vicious condemnations are made of political opponents," he said.
Quoting his predecessor Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, he said "If you want to win a debate, don’t raise your voice, raise the quality of your argument!"
Political leaders were also introduced to the leaders of the Electoral Monitoring Network (EMN). This is a civil society national initiative aimed at diffusing potential violence surrounding the elections.
EMN’s national Coordinator Mr Derrick Marco said: "EMN will train and deploy peace monitors in at least five provinces in order to resolve conflict where politically motivated violence occurs or is threatened." EMN will also help gather information and intelligence for the IEC, ECCOC and the security services.
Leaders from all parties present responded enthusiastically, they pledged themselves to adhere to the Code of Conduct and to respect the moral authority of the Commission.