Oath taking viewed biblically and perjury by South African politicians

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Thinane, Jonas Sello
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As it is the case with many other countries around the world, South Africa has a unique and strong tradition of religious devotion, encompassed by belief in God which is even expressed in the constitution’s preamble invoking the presence of God. To ensure that the judicial system carries out its duties responsibly and upholds the fair administration of justice, courts of law, judicial authority and commissions of inquiry discourage perjury by requiring witnesses or the accused to take an oath or certify that the content of their testimony is true and accurate. The recent lenient sentencing whereby the former Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini was found guilty of perjury has certainly set a bad precedent and created the impression that anyone with more money can lie under oath and buy their way out of the transgression. The case of Ms Bathabile Dlamini is significant both from the perspective of the judicial system and perhaps more importantly from the perspective of the broader religious teachings in general and the Christian teachings in particular, as it points to a society that has lost its Christian ethics and is somewhat polluted by individuals, especially political figures who are conducting themselves as though they are not obliged to take the practice of oath seriously, thus inadvertently seriously questioning the religious doctrines of oaths and even the consequences of lying under oath. This paper will highlight the impact of perjury on both the religious and judicial integrity in a society like South Africa. It argues that the punishment of perjury should firstly, reflect differences in the seriousness of the offense that gave rise to the perjury and, secondly, take into account the public standing of the offender in relation to the extent of his or her influence on society. It then concludes with a plea that, on the one hand, the religious communities, especially Christianity, should strengthen their teachings about taking an oath. On the other hand, the courts must increase the punishment for perjurers, especially if these individuals hold public office.
Lying, Oath, Perjury, Religious integrity, Judicial integrity
Thinane, J.S. (2022). Oath taking viewed Biblically and perjury by South African Politicians. Pharos Journal of Theology, 103. https://doi.org/10.46222/pharosjot.10335