Makhosandile Zulu
2 minute read
19 Mar 2020
2:59 pm

Religious leaders slam bishop who plans to defy ban on big gatherings

Makhosandile Zulu

Religious leaders say they fully support the government's interventions in addressing the coronavirus.

Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, President of the South African Council of Churches (center) together with Reverend Frank Chikane (left) and Bishop Mpumlwana address student leaders, on their concerns regarding the problem of fees in higher education that the students are currently fighting under the #feesmustfall movement, Randburg, 19 January 2016. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Nkanyezi Church of Christ Bishop Bheki Timothy Ngcobo was on Thursday admonished for his public opposition to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s restrictions prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

IOL reported Ngcobo has called on followers of the Christian faith to not abandon their Easter gatherings.

Police Minister Bheki Cele made it clear on Thursday that anyone breaking the 100-person barrier would face arrest.

The President of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) Malusi Mpumlwana on Thursday pointed out that considering that the ban on mass gatherings had been gazetted by the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, those who refused to comply with it could be charged for endangering lives.

Mpumlwana was speaking after a meeting between Ramaphosa and religious leaders to reinforce the national response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mpumlwana told members of the media that the minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, outlined to religious leaders during the meeting the importance of curbing the spread of the virus, which makes it clear that social distancing, as a way of achieving this, is important.

ALSO READ: KZN bishop says Ramaphosa is ‘not God’ and if his flock gets the virus it will be ‘God’s will’

Mpumlwana said it was critical to be cognisant of the impact the virus could have on society, which has high numbers of people living with HIV, Aids and TB.

He said it was also the role of religious leaders to ensure that human lives are preserved and appealed to those who are defying the restrictions on mass gatherings not to “test God”.

Mpumlwana said in the Bible that when Jesus was asked to jump from a cliff to prove that he is the son of God, his response was that one should not test God.

Mpumlwana said it was God’s will for all to work together in dealing with the viral outbreak.

“Let us all South Africans hold hands, not physically [but] spiritually,” Mpumlwana said.

All the religious leaders, including from the Islamic and Shembe faiths, welcomed the government’s interventions in dealing with the outbreak and committed to working with the state in the fight against the virus and to either cancel or postpone mass gatherings of their respective churches.

Ramaphosa said the meeting on Thursday was the most representative meeting, which brought together faith-based organisations from across different regions, dogmas, denominations, beliefs who are “united in action and purpose” in the fight against the coronavirus.

The president said government was pleased to have reliable and trustworthy partners in the form of religious leaders.

Ramaphosa said an announcement would be made in due course on the proposed national day of prayer over Covid-19.

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