Bishop Bheki Ngcobo has opposed the limit of people being allowed to gather for prayer in churches under Level 3 lockdown.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that places of worship would be allowed to gather under Level 3 but under strict conditions — hence the limit of 50 people.
While some worshippers have praised Ramaphosa for his decision, others have criticised him.
Ngcobo previously made headlines for pledging to defy lockdown regulations by gathering thousands of his supporters for an Easter pilgrimage. He also said “Ramaphosa is not God,” encouraging people to gather despite the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Speaking to Bongani Bingwa on 702 on Wednesday 27 May, Ngcobo said he welcomed Ramaphosa’s decision but was not altogether sold.
Ngcobo said the limit of 50 people was too low and that he felt the damage had already been done by not opening places of worship sooner.
“We were worried that the president opened the alcohol and forgot the church. So we are excited, although we still have a long way to go,” the bishop said.
“Yes, 50 is too low but it’s better than nothing,” he said.
Ngcobo argued that it would be difficult for churches that have around 1 000 congregants.
“If you want to break down that number of 1 000, how can you do it with one premises? A person that is responsible for this 1 000, it will be very hard,” added Ngcobo.
Ngcobo said churches are an essential service and a loss of revenue must be challenged for the time that churches have been out of service. He said compensation is due as some lost their premises.
“There are churches who already lost their place of worship. They were renting and now they lost it because owners wanted money. Lockdown or no lockdown, the owners want their money,” said Ngcobo.
Ngcobo paid an admission of guilt fine in the Durban Magistrate’s Court, on Friday 15 May, for failing to confine to his residence during the lockdown.
The Bishop allegedly went against the lockdown regulations between 27 March 2020 and 30 April 2020.
During COVID-19 policing operations in preventing gatherings over the Easter period, the police were searching for Ngcobo to obtain a statement but could not contact him. Ngcobo’s family mentioned that he had gone to the mountains to pray in solitude with nothing more than fruit for sustenance.
Ngcobo’s cellphone records and photographic evidence showed that he had not confined himself to where he said he was. In light of the evidence, Ngcobo opted to acknowledge guilt by paying the Admission of Guilt fine of R1 500, which is the maximum fine for this offence.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) welcomed his decision, saying that he took responsibility for his actions.