Eddie Esau is the Verger at the St Georges Cathedral. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Eddie Esau is the Verger at the St Georges Cathedral. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Millions of worshippers want Ramaphosa to declare religious sector essential service

By Khaya Koko Time of article published May 22, 2020

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Johannesburg - More than 18 million congregants want President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare the religious sector an essential service as pressure mounts on the government to reopen industries amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On Wednesday evening, Pastor At Boshoff from the 92-branch strong Christian Revival Church (CRC) was part of more than 10 delegations which met Ramaphosa in a bid to persuade him to deem the religious sector an essential service.

This as the government begins to open up the country following the two-month lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19. On Thursday, Boshoff confirmed the meeting with the president, saying they were not lobbying against the government, but rather to enable churches to play their supportive role in society.

Boshoff said he had a mandate from CRC, the International Federation of Christian Churches as well as speaking on behalf of charismatic churches, altogether representing more than 18million people.

In a summary of Boshoff’s presentation to the president given to The Star, the churches advocated for no gatherings in level 5 and level 4 of the lockdown, with small prayer meetings of about 10 people from level 3.

“The church is the most underutilised asset the government has - we stand ready and available to serve our country and repair the devastating ­damage and fear this virus has already caused among our population."

Boshoff said this would include the utilisation of churches to distribute food and other critical products, as well as offer shelter if needed, which they could not do currently as they’re not deemed essential.

His views were echoed by Faisal Suliman, president of the SA Muslim Network, who said: "We understand that we need to protect citizens from the virus. But the government needs to balance the need to protect health with religious freedoms.”

The Muslim Judicial Council also met Ramaphosa on Wednesday.

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said: “The president is considering all proposals made to him during consultations with various sectors of society. The government will announce its decisions in due course.”

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