Nkanyezi Church of Christ Bishop Bheki Timothy Ngcobo. Picture: Facebook
Nkanyezi Church of Christ Bishop Bheki Timothy Ngcobo. Picture: Facebook

Covid-19: Ramaphosa ‘not God’ says church leader planning mass service over Easter

By Nnkululeko Nene Time of article published Mar 22, 2020

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Durban - While King Goodwill Zwelithini fully supports President Cyril Ramaphosa’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 100 people as a means to curb the spread of coronavirus, a religious group is preparing to defy the ban over Easter.

In a pre-recorded message broadcast on Thursday, Zwelithini encouraged people to heed the president’s Covid-19 preventative measure which he announced last Sunday.

Prince Mbonisi Zulu, the royal household spokesperson, said the king had opted not to address his people on an open platform because he understood the risks.

“The king was pleased with the president’s speech and realised that organising a large imbizo would be an act of defiance,” Zulu said.

“He stressed cleanliness issues, and urged government departments to provide villages with access to water. He suggested that all social gatherings be postponed until a cure was found.”

However, Bheki Timothy Ngcobo, bishop of Nkanyezi Church of Christ, was not prepared to accede to the calls by the king and the president.

Ngcobo vowed to forge ahead with plans to hold a massive church prayer session, beginning on Good Friday (April 10) and ending on Easter Monday. He argued that Ramaphosa was “not God”.

“I am still mobilising congregants to pray about bringing an end to the virus.

“We Christians believe in the power of prayer to expel the virus. Ramaphosa does not understand; he represents no congregation,” he said.

Ngcobo said he was speaking on behalf of the SA Zionist Churches Association in KwaZulu-Natal, and those who judged him were not above God.

Ngcobo, also president of the Durban-based political party, African Freedom Revolution, said he was not afraid of going to prison for defying the law.

He rose in popularity within an ANC faction when he co-organised night vigils for former president Jacob Zuma, before his court appearances.

Ngcobo said his views on the church’s proposed gathering had nothing to do with politics.

Sihawu Ngubane, a Zulu culture expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said only funerals should be allowed and other gatherings, like weddings, be postponed.

Time limits should be placed on funerals to avoid prolonged periods of contact.

He suggested that, during funerals, precautionary measures be applied, but without compromising on culture.

Ngubane said the decision by academic institutions to postpone graduations and classes highlighted the seriousness of the coronavirus epidemic.

He said Ramaphosa should have gone further and imposed a State of Emergency to totally prohibit social gatherings, as some people would not adhere to the restriction.

He warned that village communities could be at risk of contracting the virus when relatives visited during Easter.

“Handshakes must stop and we should always keep a safe distance, but sometimes that can be interpreted as disrespect by some parents,” he said.

He appealed to health officials to provide sanitisers and water to under-resourced communities.

Inkosi Phathisizwe Chiliza, chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders, said he supported the postponement of traditional weddings in rural communities, especially in areas with water challenges.

He said mourners at funerals should be divided into groups not exceeding 100.

“The awareness issues will be cascaded down to izinduna and local villages. Izinduna are the ones who will decide on whether events go ahead after consulting with the relevant chiefs,” Chiliza said.

Sunday Tribune

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