JOHANNESBURG - There is a saying that politics and religion are the two sure things to start an argument with at a dinner party or family gathering, but what to do when the two are inextricably intertwined?
As the African National Congress (ANC) heads to its elective conference on 16 December, politics and religion have been talking points for the governing party as a whole, as well as it's current and possible future leadership.
The past weekend, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa called for prayers ahead of the ANC elective conference at an address to congregants at the Shembe Church on the far north coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
"I’m one of those who has raised their hands to be elected so I’m appealing to you to also pray for the conference to went well and me also to be successful," said Ramaphosa.
In April, a team of religious leaders from the National Religious Leaders Council and the South African Council of Churches asked to meet with the ANC top 6.
On the agenda between the councils and the governing party's top six, was President Jacob Zuma's leadership and the "crisis" the country was faced with.
The church leaders requested the meeting after releasing a statement saying President Zuma had lost all morality to govern.
The influential South African Council of Churches warned corruption is turning South Africa into a "mafia state" under a government that intimidates whistleblowers.
In unusually frank comments from the council (SACC), its secretary general Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana was cited as saying President Jacob Zuma's government had "lost the moral radar".
The religious leaders went on to ask the ANC to ask President Zuma to step down.
In December, President Jacob Zuma took a swipe at religious leaders on Sunday, telling them not to get involved in politics.
Addressing the Twelve Apostles’ Church in Christ thanksgiving event at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Zuma said: “It doesn't sit well with us when we see church leaders involving themselves in politics and creating problems, instead of bringing people together. What we’re really asking from church leaders is that they pray for us”.
However, in April Zuma asked church-goers to pray for the nation.
Addressing a Good Friday service of the Universal Church of Kingdom of God at the Ellis Park Stadium, Zuma asked the congregation to pray for Parliament so that its representatives would treat each other with respect.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa led a National Day of Prayer in November calling on South Africans of all races and languages to unite.
The service was hosted by the Motsepe Foundation at the FNB Stadium near Soweto.
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, traditional leaders, and leaders of 37 faith-based organisations were among delegates praying for the country’s problems.
ANC presidential hopefuls including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Zweli Mkhize and Lindiwe Sisulu were all expected to attend.
In April, organisers of a mass prayer session outside Bloemfontein on Saturday claim that over a million people were in attendance.
Police, however, have put their estimate at closer to 700,000.
Farmer-turned-preacher Angus Buchan says he and his team organised the event in six weeks.
In October, an interdenominational prayer service was held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in an initiative called the “Garden Prayer for the South African Nation and Government”, where hundreds of people prayed together, calling for divine intervention in the country.