South Africans need not fear hell's fiery chambers if they do not vote for the ruling party in local polls Wednesday as threatened by President Jacob Zuma, a senior church leader said on Monday.
"People won't go to hell," Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, told a news conference on election monitoring.
"People have to exercise their right to vote and choose whichever party they want to vote for."
Zuma claimed his party's higher influences while on the municipal election campaign trail in February, when he said a vote that did not go to the African National Congress (ANC) was a ballot for the devil.
"When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven.
When you don't vote for the ANC you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork... who cooks people," Zuma was quoted by The Times as saying.
"When you are carrying an ANC membership card, you are blessed.
When you get up there, there are different cards used but when you have an ANC card, you will be let through to go to heaven."
He again turned to God in April: "There's always the presence of God where we are. When you vote for the ANC even your hand gets blessed," he was quoted as saying in City Press.
The ANC has won sweeping victories in South Africa's post-apartheid polls since 1994, but faces growing anger over shoddy municipal services for the poor, state graft and high crime amid a growing challenge from the opposition.