In this file picture, a group of church members are seen making their way to worship. Picture: Itumeleng English/Africa News Agency(ANA)
In this file picture, a group of church members are seen making their way to worship. Picture: Itumeleng English/Africa News Agency(ANA)

ATM says State criminalised worship by closing churches, heads to court to overturn decision

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Feb 1, 2021

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Johannesburg - While President Cyril Ramaphosa and Ministers Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Zweli Mkhize may not be accused of being anti-Christ, the Cabinet’s decision to shut down churches under lockdown level 3 has criminalised worship.

This is according to the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and the SA Council of Messianic Churches in Christ, which are dragging the three executive members to court to wage battle against the closure of churches.

Vuyo Zungula, ATM president, filed papers at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Friday, for the urgent application.

The application was intended to convince the court that the Cabinet’s decision to shut down churches under level 3 was irrational and set it aside.

Zungula said in the papers the court should look no further than the decision to leave businesses like cinemas and casinos open to prove the irrationality of closing churches.

“The applicants accept that the respondents are not anti-Christ or antiGod, but submit that the decision to prohibit faith-based gatherings is irrational and unconstitutional,” said Zungula.

“It is significant, indeed incredible, that even though the faith-based or religious gatherings are absolutely prohibited, gathering at entertainment places like cinemas, theatres, casinos, museums, galleries etc, are open for attendance with certain restrictions.

“Commercial gathering or gatherings of a commercial nature have effectively been given priority unlawfully over faith-based and religious organisations.”

The adjusted level 3 lockdown regulations Ramaphosa announced in December banned all gatherings, including those by churches, political parties and traditional councils.

Ramaphosa banned the gatherings on grounds that the virus infection rate was once again surging.

Police fired rubber bullets at church goers in Sebokeng three weeks ago.

Three were arrested for contravening lockdown regulations and for public violence.

The Star

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