Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Social Gospel

The ACDP has always been known as a morally grounded party, standing strongly and even fiercely on a set of moral principles. While I support the moral stance entirely, we're all aware that preaching a few principles is not necessarily enough to convince voters that a party is ready to govern.

The emergence of the community and social upliftment agenda in the ACDP has thus been incredibly refreshing. I personally have been challenged by this issue over the last few months, and it appears I'm not the only one. The Biblical passage of Isaiah 58 talks about "true religion" being to feed the orphans and widows and set free the (spiritual) captives. Jesus Himself refers to helping the poor and when the apostle Paul left Jerusalem, it was recorded that they had one common urge: to remember the poor.

Of course, it's tricky to "help the poor" when you don't have a budget to work with, and in some senses the voting public will never know what the ACDP is capable of until they are in power. Here it is refreshing that the position of Deputy Mayor in Cape Town was nailed down, so that the party will have a chance to show its motives in serving the community.

Despite the restrictions, however, it emerged that the different ACDP provinces have been heavily involved in community activity. An annual competition is managed to see which of the provinces achieves top score from several points categories, including members signed up, by-elections contested (60% overall, second only to the ANC among the parties), biggest percentage vote achieved in a by-election and number of community projects involved in. My province, KZN were leading right up to the last month, when Western Cape dug into their reserves and pipped us, with Limpopo casting a shadow down in third place. KZN as the leader has its hand in 27 community projects.

There have been several ways to get involved in the community. Firstly, enter into cooperation with current church projects like orphanages and soup kitchens. This is a natural relationship, because much governmental community development is done with NGO projects. ACDP can bring in organisational experience and oversight that perhaps some volunteers lack. Secondly, some ACDP branches provide a process help service, so that someone who is having difficulty with a national department can receive help in processing paperwork and finding the right channels. Finally, the good old community clean-ups - don your ACDP tshirt and go out as a group and pick up litter on the highways. It costs nothing and gets visible publicity. Funnily enough, the ANC copies us as soon as they see us do it! Sure, it's marketing, but which kind of marketing do you prefer: a big money bilboard or some elbow grease?

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