Controversial Durban Zionist Bishop Bheki Timothy Ngcobo Picture: Supplied
Controversial Durban Zionist Bishop Bheki Timothy Ngcobo Picture: Supplied

Let churches open, urges prominent preacher

By Bongani Hans Time of article published Apr 5, 2020

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Durban – Controversial Durban Zionist Bishop Bheki Timothy Ngcobo has defied the government’s regulations and is lobbying church leaders from other provinces to urge the government to open churches.

But President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday warned that they would not tolerate anyone violating the law.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the law would not be changed and they would not relax any restrictions during the lockdown period.

“The president has had extensive consultations with the faith-based community. The overwhelming majority of these compatriots have understood and accepted the difficult decision to prohibit gatherings of any kind, including church services, as a necessary measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and to save lives. The president will not be relaxing this prohibition and putting the lives of millions of people at risk,” said Diko.

In a WhatsApp message to other church leaders across the country, Ngcobo said churches must be opened as an essential service for the upcoming Easter weekend and other Sunday services.

However, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala also said they would not tolerate anyone who violated the law.

Ngcobo yesterday appealed to church leaders who were in support of his campaign, to send him their details, which he would use in writing the letter to Ramaphosa asking him to allow churches to operate.

“Plz join Whatsapp groups created per province with an intention of asking the government to open churches to operate as an essential service from the Kingdom of our Almighty God.

“We invite the body of Christ to rise and challenge this call of silencing the church.”

Ngcobo, who also leads the political party, the African Freedom Revolution, lobbied congregants beyond the province to join his campaign of defying the 21-day curfew.

However, Zikalala said soldiers would act harshly against those found breaking the law, which Ramaphosa had imposed as part of the Disaster Management Act to prevent the spread of the virus.

Zikalala made the comment in reaction to the iNkanyezi Church of Christ leader. .

“We cannot be held to ransom by one person who wants get some profile out of such a challenge that is facing not only the province or the country, but the world as a whole,” said Zikalala.

The premier said Ngcobo was a lone voice as most other religious leaders in the province had rejected his call, and instead adhered to the lockdown.

At least nine people have died while more than 1580 people tested positive countrywide.

Zikalala said Pietermaritzburg and Durban were leading with cases of infections and he called on law enforcement agencies to act “harshly and hard” against anyone caught breaking the lockdown regulations.

He said soldiers were correct in applying force to get people to remain indoors.

“It is correct if soldiers are harsh and hard on you. Soldiers cannot be negotiating.

“They must force and force and force to ensure that we all adhere to measures that are in place,” said Zikalala.

Ngcobo accused Zikalala of being “a failure by nature”, saying that residents of Ndwedwe, where he lived, did not have water, which was essential in the fight against the spread of the virus.

“He is talking about my profile, while I am talking about reality,” said Ngcobo.

Political Bureau

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