Churches feel pain of state regulations
Police deployed to monitor worshippers and crack down on liquor establishments bent on defying the law
THOUSANDS of Gauteng worshippers felt the first pain of the government’s stringent coronavirus regulations as police cracked down on churches which allegedly sought to defy the law.
Police were stationed yesterday outside the St John’s Apostolic Faith Mission Church – which is headquartered in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni – after the provincial government obtained a court order to restrain the church from hosting its regular festival.
Thousands of worshippers from across the country and southern Africa were expected to attend the festivities, and tent structures erected for the weekend were still being taken down when Independent Media visited yesterday.
Last week, the government, in gazetted regulations signed by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, banned all gatherings which exceeded 100 people.
On Friday, the Gauteng Department of Health said it had to go to court to interdict St John’s from hosting its festival following a tip-off that the church allegedly wanted to defy the regulations.
However, in a video-recorded statement yesterday, church leader Lady Archbishop Maragu said St John’s had decided on Tuesday to cancel the festival following a meeting with a provincial government delegation.
Maragu said many congregants had arrived early for the festivities.
“I relayed the message to the church’s congregation at about 11pm (on Tuesday) that the festival is cancelled, and that those who could return home the following day should do so.
“We also decided to tell church members who were still making their way to either not come or turn back and go home,” Maragu said.
“The congregants still at the church bought single-trip tickets, and are now waiting for transport money so they can go home.”
She said the church would adhere to regulations.
Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters confirmed yesterday that police were on the ground monitoring churches and liquor establishments, which had been told not to have more than 50 people inside and told to close at 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and 1pm on Sundays and public holidays.
Meanwhile, renowned gospel artist Reverend Benjamin Dube’s High Praise Centre in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, church, which has a membership of 1 500 people, said yesterday that its congregants were angry over the regulations. Leaders locked the gate once 100 people were inside.
Irene Sibiya, a manager in Dube’s office, said the church’s four services would all be kept to within what the law prescribes.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities called on all religious leaders to adhere to the regulations.
“If you violate the law, state organs will have to do what they do,” said chairperson Professor Luka Mosoma.