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By Chris Makhaye
Jacob Zuma, the ANC deputy president, took his charm offensive to the pulpit when he was made an honorary pastor at a meeting of independent charismatic churches at Ntuzuma, north of Durban, on Saturday.
In the past few weeks Zuma has been seen embracing other church groups and Afrikaners and even travelling overseas to meet diplomats and presenting himself as a statesman.
At Ntuzuma's Full Gospel Community Church on Saturday, it was a day of long speeches, as priests and bishops proclaimed their support for Zuma, saying they would back him all the way to Limpopo in December, when the next ANC leader will be chosen.
Church leaders said they wanted a leader who would listen to the people.
In an apparent swipe at President Thabo Mbeki, pastor Qiniso Shabalala said, "We want a leader who sees poverty and walks and lives among poverty-stricken people in Nkandla, rather than a person who learns about poverty through the Internet."
Zuma was later brought to the podium, where a prayer was dedicated to him.
Bishop Ben Mthethwa then put a cleric's collar on Zuma and declared him a priest.
Zuma thanked them and said independent churches had been born during the difficult time of apartheid oppression.