National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Kara said that Bishop Bheki Ngcobo had paid the R1,500 fine in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday for failing to remain confined to his residence during the nationwide lockdown between 27 March and 30 April.
Kara said that during Covid-19 operations aimed at preventing gatherings over the Easter period, the police had gone in search of Ngcobo to obtain a warning statement, but could not contact him. At the time, Ngcobo infamously told his congregants to gather for an Easter service despite all religious gatherings being prohibited during the lockdown.
Kara said his family had mentioned that he had gone “to the mountains to pray in solitude, with nothing more than fruit for sustenance”.
‘Not confined himself’
“However, his cellphone records and photographic evidence showed that he had not confined himself to where he said he was.”
She said that, in light of the evidence presented by Regional Court acting prosecutor Ronitha Singh, Ngcobo had opted to acknowledge guilt by paying the R1,500 fine, which is the maximum fine for the offence.
“The National Prosecuting Authority welcomes the responsibility that Bishop Ngcobo has taken for his actions. He is the leader of a large religious movement, and many people look up to him for guidance,” Kara said.
She said he had accepted his wrongdoing and “has done the honourable thing by pleading guilty”.
“In this way, he accepts that, while everyone has a right to freedom of expression, and freedom of movement, the limitation is justifiable within the current Covid-19 pandemic. He has affirmed to his congregants that the rule of law must always prevail.”