Price for church’s flock to keep faith

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - SI­BONGILE MASHABA @smashaba

RIVERS of Liv­ing Waters Min­istries fol­low­ers have de­fended their church’s de­ci­sion to charge R25 000 per ta­ble for the “price-giv­ing” gala din­ner in cel­e­bra­tion of its leader’s birthday.

The din­ner will be hosted in cel­e­bra­tion of Archbishop Stephen Zondo’s 52nd birthday on Jan­uary 26 and the church said it hoped to raise R100 mil­lion to build a com­mu­nity cen­tre.

Zondo was crit­i­cised after a ban­ner cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia in which he stated that he would be host­ing a “prize-giv­ing” gala din­ner in cel­e­bra­tion of his birthday and that those wish­ing to share a ta­ble with him would have to fork out R10 000 per seat. A gen­eral ta­ble is R25 000 or R2 500 per seat.

Zondo, who was born on Jan­uary 24, will cel­e­brate his birthday at the Eye of Africa. He will also host the Archbishop Zondo’s Golf Day, where “non-golfers” will be charged R2 500 and peo­ple will pay R4 500 for a “four­ball”, while a “hole spon­sor­ship” is R5 000.

The most ex­pen­sive is the “Archbishop’s Pack­age” at R50 000. The ban­ners stated that funds for Vi­sion 2020 would be raised.

Thahla Manyawuza Faku com­mented on Face­book: “I am will­ing to pay R50 000. Count me in my peo­ple… for the Vi­sion 2020.”

Ail­wei Mudzuli said: “We are there to cel­e­brate our daddy’s birthday and to raise funds for our Vi­sion 2020 build­ing.”

The church’s Bob Mthembu said as part of its for­ward-look­ing de­vel­op­ments and its ex­is­tence, the min­istry re­solved to build a com­mu­nity cen­tre that would ac­com­mo­date 12 000 peo­ple hence the im­por­tance of host­ing the gala din­ner as a way of gen­er­at­ing funds.

Though the church did not re­spond di­rectly to ques­tions sent by The Star on Wed­nes­day, Mthembu said in the state­ment: “Rivers of Liv­ing Waters Min­istry will be cel­e­brat­ing its 30th an­niver­sary. Dur­ing this pe­riod of its ex­is­tence, the min­istry has grown to 20 000 mem­bers in more than 40 branches.”

It’s en­vis­aged the cen­tre will cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the short term and cre­ate more sus­tain­able jobs in the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor and man­age­ment of the cen­tre in the long term.

“The es­ti­mated cost of the cen­tre is about R100 mil­lion,” Mthembu said.

He said the cen­tre would be open to the public and “rea­son­able tar­iffs will be de­ter­mined by the church once it is ready to op­er­ate”.

How­ever, Face­book users have ac­cused Zondo of us­ing peo­ple to en­rich him­self.

John Nape Magolo com­mented: “I love Bishop Zondo, never doubt that. But I think things like these ex­clude poor peo­ple…”

Mthuthuzeli Mbolekwa said: “It’s a lie. They are fol­low­ing their first liar (Malaw­ian pas­tor Shep­herd) Bushiri and now it’s them. Oth­ers are still go­ing to do it, it’s the best way of rob­bing peo­ple in the name of God.”

How­ever, Adam Vis­agie de­fended his leader. “The church has a Vi­sion 2020 and there­fore we are in need of these funds.”

Nathan Navira echoed his sen­ti­ments. “Peo­ple don’t know that vi­sions need to be funded… Run­ning a church is not cheap,” he said.

CRIT­I­CISED: Archbishop Stephen Zondo of Rivers of Liv­ing Waters Min­istries.

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