Churches feel pain of state reg­u­la­tions

Po­lice de­ployed to mon­i­tor wor­ship­pers and crack down on liquor es­tab­lish­ments bent on de­fy­ing the law

Pretoria News - - METRO - KHAYA KOKO

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.

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