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‘You can dance at Nkandla but church is forbidden?’ — Gathering sparks calls to reopen churches

06 July 2021 - 14:00 By cebelihle bhengu
There are growing calls to reopen churches under alert level 4 lockdown. Stock photo.
There are growing calls to reopen churches under alert level 4 lockdown. Stock photo.

Frustrated South Africans are calling for the government to reopen churches during alert level 4 after thousands descended on the home of former president Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, at the weekend. 

The police were slammed for failing to enforce lockdown regulations, which prohibit gatherings of any size, as the country continues to see a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Protesters hardly maintained social distancing and many were seen without their masks on, sparking wide-ranging condemnation of the “superspreader” gathering.

Zuma was also seen without a face mask, including during a media briefing. His spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi suggested the former president may have not worn one because of an unspecified health condition.

Freedom of Religion SA (For SA) told TimesLIVE it is opposed to the reopening of churches.

“While the constitution does guarantee the right to religious freedom, which includes the right to physically meet, it also allows the government to limit any constitutional right on the condition that it is reasonable, justifiable and goes no further than what is necessary.

“In the circumstances, while we understand the frustration of the religious community that has had their religious freedom rights significantly, and at times unfairly, restricted by the government under the lockdown regulations, we believe the best recourse is to continue to engage the government to ensure these vital rights are restored at the earliest opportunity,” said the organisation.

For SA said calls to reopen churches are understandable but the current restrictions apply to all gatherings. 

Contrary to the previous ban on religious gatherings in December and January, the current ban — at least in terms of the written regulations — extends to all gatherings. Understandably, however, the frustration of the religious community is amplified by the apparent unequal enforcement of this ban against non-religious gatherings,” it said. 

On social media, many questioned why lockdown regulations were not enforced at Nkandla while religious and other social gatherings are prohibited. Here are some of the reactions: