Johannesburg - Thousands of members of the Tyrannus Apostolic Church converged on a dusty patch of land in De Deur, near Vereeniging, for their Easter weekend prayer service.
And on Sunday Apostle Simon Mokoena, who leads one of the fastest growing churches in South Africa, gave political parties a platform to win over his congregants to their cause.
With almost religious zeal, leaders of various political parties wasted no time in competing for the votes of the thousands of congregants of the movement, also known as “Tirano”.
“We didn’t just come here for the elections, we believe in his (Mokoena’s) wisdom and guidance… We believe this church is blessed to have Apostle Mokoena,” Economic Freedom Fighters’ Floyd Shivambu said.
National Freedom Party (NFP) leader Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, who received a thunderous welcome, continued in similar vein.
“Thanks, God for giving us a man of his (Mokoena’s) calibre. Not many are able to get people to gather (in their thousands) like him. He has made history by making political parties gather like this. He is a man of wisdom.”
Even ANC heavyweight and wealthy businessman Cyril Ramaphosa was not to be outdone, chanting “Viva Tirano!” and “Long live mo apostola (Apostle Mokoena)”.
“Your church Tirano is lucky to have an apostle like apostle Mokoena. Not many churches in South Africa have apostles,” said Ramaphosa, who was flanked by Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane.
The electioneering zeal in De Deur typified an Easter weekend that saw political leaders flocking to various churches across the country in an attempt to garner votes.
President Jacob Zuma set the tone on Friday. He told thousands of Universal Church congregants at Coca-Cola Stadium in Joburg to pray for a peaceful election to honour religious and anti-apartheid stalwarts who sacrificed their lives for freedom.
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota defied his doctor’s orders to rest and flew from Cape Town to Gauteng for Tirano’s Easter weekend service.
Each of the parties was allocated three minutes to deliver its message to the thousands in the church’s blue, red and white colours.
The colours meant that each of the parties – from the ANC, DA, Cope, NFP, EFF, IFP and PAC – could in some way claim the congregants as their own.
Shivambu said: “Your vote must be the vote that guarantees us a better future. The vote must be the vote that gives us land without having to pay. Also, I want to congratulate the male brigades for (wearing) red berets.”
The DA’s Khume Ramulifho, who was flanked by the party’s Gauteng leader, John Moodey, said:
“We want the church to assist to continue to pray for us to be honest as politicians and to be honest to the nation. When we deal with resources, we must use them to benefit you and the nation.
“We are expecting your support. We will service you well.”
Ramaphosa recalled an encounter he had had with a congregant who welcomed him as he drove into the venue.
“He said ‘Ntate (father) Ramaphosa, today I came here because I trust (in) the apostle who takes us somewhere. I want to thank the ANC government.
“Today I have my own house (as) I was living in a shack. I have two children who are at university and they are receiving bursaries’.”
Ramaphosa appealed to Mokoena and his congregation to pray for the government and Zuma.
“Put your hands on his head for government to continue with the good work. Don’t forget May 7… When I look at your faces and eyes, I can see who you are going to vote for. Go ahead and vote,” he said.