Picture: Fr. Kenny Moteane‏/Twitter

Kimberley - Congregants have objected to the “political hijacking” of a Roman Catholic church service by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, in Jan Kempdorp on Sunday, which they believed posed a serious conflict of interest.

All Sunday church services were cancelled and parishioners were encouraged to attend a special mass that was held to hand over funds, which were raised in the Kimberley district to train priests, to the bishop.

Ramaphosa, along with other ANC and government officials as well as supporters dressed in ANC regalia, occupied the front benches at the event that was held at Jan Kempdorp Primary School in Valspan.

DA MPL Boitumelo Babuseng stated that he walked out of the church service when he realised that it was in fact a political campaign.

“No one informed us that Ramaphosa would be addressing the service. Many parishioners whom I spoke to were also unhappy and we would not have driven all the way to attend a political rally. It is unheard of, for a Catholic church to give political personalities a platform at a mass. Ramaphosa received a special blessing from the bishop,” said Babuseng.

He believed that the church should remain apolitical and not align itself with a any politician.

“This was unacceptable and I will lodge a formal complaint with the bishop. By nature, the church is supposed to be apolitical and should not become involved in factional battles. Ramaphosa attended the service to campaign. Will the church allow Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to do the same?”

Babuseng questioned why Ramaphosa was allowed to address congregates if he had attended the service in his personal capacity.

“He would have had to obtain permission before arriving with an entourage of security and officials. It is an embarrassment and it has compromised the impartiality of the church.”

Other members of the community also wholeheartedly agreed that church and politics should not mix.

Other parishioners, who chose to stay for the service, indicated that Ramaphosa had taken the opportunity to speak out against the misuse of state resources, fighting corruption and poverty alleviation.

Messages on social media indicated that while they were caught off guard, the bishop had made it clear from the onset that Ramaphosa “must not think he is coming to campaign here”.

Another person stated that Ramaphosa’s pledge to eradicate corruption amounted to nothing more than an empty promise.

“Remember wherever they (politicians) go, they leave some money. These churches are also desperate. This is the same man who recently, when asked about Faith Muthambi’s poor performance, said it is not his business - he is just a deputy president. The noise he is making about state capture and the Guptas when addressing rallies he has never mentioned it in Parliament.”

ANC national communications manager Khusela Sangoni indicated that Ramaphosa was deployed to Jan Kempdorp and Kimberley in his capacity as an ANC leader to “speak to communities”.

“We are not involved in any campaigning. Permission was obtained from the church for the deputy president to attend the service,” said Sangoni.

Father Bonnetswe Victor from St Mary’s Cathedral parish explained that Ramaphosa was not specially invited by the church.

“It was not planned and we are not used to the high level of security that accompanied him to the service. His office called on Friday requesting to attend the service that hosted all five districts in the Province. The church is apolitical and is not affiliated to any individual. Sometimes a government official is allowed to say something at the end of the service and Ramaphosa was offered the same opportunity. The bishop made it clear from the start that Ramaphosa was not attending in his capacity as a political leader and was not here to campaign or fund-raise for any party.”

He was unable to ascertain whether Ramaphosa was a member of the Catholic church.

“We do not turn anyone away and Catholics as well as non-Catholics are welcome to attend any mass. We welcome anyone who wishes to pray for the country, its leaders and society.”

Father Victor did not disclose if Ramaphosa had made any donations to the diocese or the fund to train priests.

“If there was any contribution or pledge it is between him and God. We do not make this sort of information public.”

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