Easter religious gatherings cancelled
The number of people with Covid-19 in the country has risen to 116 from 85 in 24 hours, the government said.
The new infections included six cases of local transmission of the virus.
The new cases comprised 16 in Gauteng, 10 in the Western Cape, three in KwaZulu-Natal and two in Mpumalanga. They include two toddlers.
The Commission for Cultural and Religious Rights has appealed to churches and religious organisations to adhere to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s instruction that services or gatherings remain below 100 people.
The Zion Christian Church (ZCC), the country’s largest church - with a membership of 5 million - announced the postponement of its annual Easter pilgrimage to its headquarters in Moria in Limpopo. ZCC spokesperson Reverend Emanuel Motolla said church leader, Reverend Barnabas Lekganyane took the decision after being briefed by a government delegation led by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
Motolla also confirmed that the church’s school in Moria would be closed, adding that a new date for the pilgrimage would be announced once a state of normality had returned.
Pastor Ron Steel, of Durban Christian Centre Jesus Dome, said all Sunday and religious holiday services had been suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We live-stream every Sunday anyway. So, for the duration of the virus we will not have any services because we would have more than 100 people attending. We will be live streaming our services,” he said.
Albert Hororo, the vice-chairperson of the Diakonia Council of Churches, said the church had taken a moral and ethical decision to cancel the Easter Friday service in line with national instructions.
“As a church, we have a mandate to be a role model in the community. We are cancelling the Good Friday service to show compliance with the national instructions because our gathering is attended by about 3000 people,” said Hororo.
The congregation of the Grey Street Juma Musjid said that following Ramaphosas’s call to religious leaders, its board of trustees had resolved that all attendances at prayers, including the Friday Juma prayer at the mosque, would be suspended until April 15.
“In the meantime, the board will undertake a thorough sanitising programme of the entire mosque premises to ensure that the health and well-being of the congregation, as well as the general public, is not endangered.”
The SA Hindu Maha Sabha said many Hindu religious and cultural organisations had also postponed their important celebrations in response to the threat of the spread of Covid-19,
The Brake Village Sri Siva Soobramaniar Alayam in oThongathi posted on its Facebook page that it had cancelled its Kavady celebrations and had suspended all major religious festivals and prayer services until further notice.
The Mount Edgecombe-based Shri Mariammen Temple also announced its annual Easter prayer festival had been cancelled. The temple said it would remain open for those who wanted to pray over the Easter weekend.
“The temple management committee will take all necessary precautions and hygiene control measures, but it is advised that the onus is upon all those who will be coming to the temple to pray to exercise precautionary measures to protect themselves,” said the temple.
The Commission for Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities acknowledged that the decision to cancel Easter celebrations would have a negative impact on various institutions, but it added that measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus should take priority.
The commission’s chairperson, Luka Mosoma, appealed to all cultural, religious and linguistic communities to adhere to the safety measures.
He said funerals, weddings, unveilings, baptismal services, stokvels, holy communions, attending of services at mosques, temples, churches, synagogues and traditional ceremonies related to the return of amathwasa should also be put on hold.
The Nazareth Baptist Church leadership is expected to convene an urgent meeting today at the Sandton Convention Centre in Gauteng, to take a decision about its Saturday gatherings.
ZCC member Nqobizizwe Thwala said that for the first time in 15 years he would not attend the event to Moria.
“When I saw on the news that this thing is spreading fast, I was hesitant to go. I have never missed any trip to Moria since 2004 and, strangely, I will be indoors during this important time that I always look forward to,” said Thwala.