Coronavirus in SA: Durban bishop vows to defy Ramaphosa over mass gatherings
Durban - A Durban bishop risks the possibility of arrest if he continues to encourage Christian followers to defy Covid-19 restriction orders from President Cyril Ramaphosa and gather in their numbers for Easter pilgrimages.
Nkanyezi Church of Christ Bishop Bheki Timothy Ngcobo has been trending on social media for opposing Ramaphosa’s ban on 100 people gathering. Ngcobo this week on Twitter called on Christians to continue travelling to various places where they gather in their thousands to worship for Easter.
A senior official at the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL), who asked not to be named, warned that Ngcobo would be arrested if he continues with his defiant behaviour.
“It is too late for that bishop to do this because he will get arrested as the government has activated two laws in the country, of which the first one is the Disaster Management Act of 2002, which outlines a number of penalties.
“The government has also enacted (restrictions on public gatherings) in a Government Gazette (signed on Tuesday) that talks to the behaviour of people,” said the official.
In response to Ramaphosa’s declaration of a state of disaster, CRL Rights Commission chairperson, Professor Luka Mosoma appealed to cultural, religious and linguistic communities to adhere to safety measures when conducting funerals, weddings, unveilings, baptismal services, stokvels, holy communions, attending services at mosques, temples, churches, synagogues and the traditional ceremonies related to the return of Amathwasa.
“After a thorough consideration of all the current and potential challenges posed by this virus, the Commission appeals to the Churches to adhere and embrace the call of the President with regards to small scale services not exceeding one hundred people,” read a statement released on Monday.
However, Ngcobo said he was not afraid of arrest for contravening Ramaphosa’s restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19.
He told Independent Media on Thursday, as he quoted from the Bible, that he was not concerned about the fact that the restrictions were enforceable by law, and whoever broke them might be arrested or fined.
“Even Apostle Paul was arrested by the regime of that time for preaching the gospel against the instructions of the Roman rulers.
“Daniel, Shadrach and Abednego were also arrested because they did not want to bow down to idols, and right now coronavirus has become the South African idol, which is meant to detect how we should worship our God,” he said.
He said he was speaking on behalf of the South African Zionist Churches association in KwaZulu-Natal. He is also the president of a Durban-based political party called African Freedom Revolution, and he shot to popularity within an ANC faction when he co-organised night vigils for former president Jacob Zuma’s court appearances. But he said his political party and his association with Zuma had nothing to do with his views on coronavirus.
“This Covid-19 is Satan who is attempting to stop Christians from going to praise God as we wish,” he said.
After Ramaphosa’s announcement, Daily Sun quoted Ngcobo saying “Ramaphosa is not God. We are God's army, so we are going to the Easter pilgrimages to fight this virus together.
“We will use the pilgrimages to pay to God to end this virus.”
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