No amen or Hallelujah could be heard in church on Sunday, 10 January.
Instead, all anyone could hear was a loud voetsek and loud stun grenades as cops dispersed congregants at churches in Sebokeng zone 7 in the Vaal, south of Joburg.
Even rubber bullets flew as some churches refused to stop their services.
The men and women in blue were unhappy that church services still continued despite level 3 regulations prohibiting such.
This resulted in a clash between stubborn congregants and cops.
Speaking to eNCA, church member Nkosana Dlomo said he was disappointed with how police harassed people when they should have been restoring order.
Some churches in Sebokeng are refusing to remain closed as required under lockdown level three. Several groups of churches have called a meeting for today. The Police have arrived and shut down the gathering. @ManqobaMchunu is there. #eNCA Courtesy #DStv403 pic.twitter.com/PEWyBbINqL
— eNCA (@eNCA) January 10, 2021
He said they were disrespectful and emphasised their human rights were violated.
“One white policeman turned our own black people against us,” said Nkosana.
He said they had a permit to conduct the church service, and complied with lockdown regulations as they wore masks and had sanitisers in place.
But some congregants told the publication they didn’t know that churches were not allowed to operate.
Others said this was their way of dealing with stress and trauma.
Lilly Mdanyanye (42) said she didn’t understand why churches weren’t allowed to operate, as this was a way for them to cope.
“People are losing their loved ones. We want to bring back the hope we’re slowly losing in God. They need to let people be,” said Lilly.
Fundiswa Moyo (31) said with everything happening, she was losing faith in God.
She said she was annoyed by how the police shut down the churches.
“First of all, they’re very disrespectful. How do you yell voetsek to a church member?
“We were praying in peace when these cops stormed in.
“They have no respect for the house of the Lord,” she said.
“They should be dealing with rapists and murderers, but they drag their feet when it comes to such and have time to disturb the church.”
Sipho Ngwenya (51) didn’t know churches weren’t allowed as that was where they prayed and asked God to keep them safe and provide a solution to the pandemic.
He said he had a bad year and wanted to start the new one afresh with God.
“I went through a lot last year, and all I wanted was to hear the word of God and pray with my beloved congregation,” said Sipho.
Sebokeng trended on Twitter after the shooting, and even though congregants didn’t see anything wrong with what they did social media users were disappointed.
“I’ve always mentioned that Sebokeng is a country on its own.
“They do as they please.
“They clearly don’t see the importance of lockdown regulations, and they’re the reason numbers keep rising,” tweeted Maleka Zandile.
Manqoba Mpaza said these would be the very same people crying “RIP” in churches.
“All they need to do is sit at home and wait.
“If the word of God is so important to them, they just need to read the Bible at home,” said Manqoba.
The publication understands a number of church leaders and congregants were arrested.
Provincial Cop Spokeswoman Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said Police in Sebokeng, Sedibeng District on Sunday 10 January 2021, arrested three suspects – two male church leaders aged 47 and 69 for contravening the COVID-19 Disaster Management Act, Adjusted Level 3 lockdown regulations, and a 62-year old woman on a similar contravention and an additional charge of public violence.
Peters said as the SAPS together with other law enforcement agencies continue to enforce and monitor adherence to the Lockdown Regulations, the members responded to reports of an illegal gathering at a church in Sebokeng Zone 7, and on arrival, ordered the group of about 250 congregants to disperse.
The group is reported to have defied police orders to disperse and the situation allegedly turned violent when the congregants started throwing chairs at the members, whereafter police responded with rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the group.
“Police are calling on members of the public to adhere to the Lockdown Regulations which have been put in place for everyone’s safety against the fast-spreading COVID-19, and not to go out of their way to break the law” said Peter’s.
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