Letter to President requesting consultation with religious leaders in view of holy day celebrations

by Adv Nadene Badenhorst
17 March 2021

11 March 2021

Dear President Ramaphosa and Minister Dlamini-Zuma,

RE:    REQUEST FOR CONSULTATION WITH RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN VIEW OF HOLY DAY CELEBRATIONS in APRIL / MAY 2021

  1. We address this letter to you on behalf of the undersigned senior religious leaders who have mandated Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) to write to you on their behalf. The confirmed signatories from senior leaders of denominations, churches and organisations, represent in excess of 14 million people of faith.

  2. The vast majority of these leaders and the organisations they represent – although (in the case of many of them) significant in terms of numbers and influence in the religious community of South Africa – do not form part of and/or their views are not necessarily represented by the structures consulted by Government (including your own Offices) on religious matters, including regarding the COVID-19 Lockdown Regulations.

  3. As a result, and despite repeated requests for inclusion in consultation, they have been left completely out of the conversation regarding the impact of the Regulations on their congregants and organisations, and left in the dark regarding Government’s intended course of action and reasons for decisions made.

 THE COUNTRY’S MOVE TO ALERT LEVEL 1

  1. As you are aware, the entire country has on Monday 1st March 2021 moved from (Adjusted) Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 1.

  2. In terms of the amended Regulations, faith-based and religious gatherings are permitted up to 100 people (indoors) and 250 people (outdoors), and for smaller venues who cannot accommodate those numbers with appropriate social distancing, up to 50% of the capacity of their venue (Regulation 72(3)).

  3. While this relaxation of the restrictions on religious gatherings will certainly assist many of the (particularly smaller) churches and religious organisations, it unfortunately does not assist many of the larger churches and religious organisations who can comfortably and responsibly accommodate many more people in their venues at one time.

  4. It also strikes us that, under the previous Level 1, religious gatherings were permitted up to 50% of the capacity of the venue with people keeping a distance of 1.5 meters between each other, but with no more than 250 people (indoors) and 500 (outdoors). (Regulation 69 of the Level 1 Regulations of 17 September 2021).

  5. As a result, and given particularly that the number of COVID-19 active cases are as low as when the country went into Level 1 last year, many religious organisations feel that, at the every least, they should have been allowed to open up to the same levels as at Level 1 last year. Other organisations feel strongly, again in light of the significant drop in active cases country-wide, that religious organisations should be allowed to meet up to 50% of the capacity of their venues, subject of course to all health, sanitisation and social distancing protocols.

  6. We note however Government’s concern (as also stated during the President’s address to the nation on Sunday 28th February 2021) regarding a potential third wave, which (some predict) may hit after Easter.

OUR REQUEST

  1. As you are aware, the months of April / May are traditionally an important time on the religious calendar of both Christians (who celebrate Easter) and Muslims (who observe Ramadan), who typically on these holy days come together with other adherents of their respective faiths and often in large groups, to collectively exercise their faith.

  2. In light of this, the undersigned religious leaders and organisations appeal to you – once again – for an opportunity to (whether themselves, or through FOR SA as their appointed representatives for this purpose) consult with Government with a view to working with Government to prevent any unnecessary further spread of the virus.

  3. We emphasise that the religious leaders and their organisations want to be part of the solution, not the problem – and believe that such a consultation will go a long way in Government taking hands with the religious community and finding solutions that will meet Government’s (legitimate) public health objectives, while at the same time respect, protect and fulfil the religious community’s constitutional right to meet together and collectively exercise their faith (sections 15, 16 and 31 of the Constitution).

Yours faithfully,
Adv Nadene L. Badenhorst
Legal Counsel, FOR SA

SIGNATORIES:

Organisation

Title/Name/Surname

Position in Organisation

Churches represented

Number of congregants

All Africa Bishops Council

Archbishop Owen McGregor &

Bishop Lazarus Selahle

Presiding Archbishop

100+

+/- 50,000

Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches

Bishop Samuel Ndlovu

Bishop

692 churches

 

Anti-Regulation Forum

Dr Shimmy Chi Aobakwe Kotu

President

 

+/- 1 million

Afrikaans Protestant Church

Ds HSW Strauss

Voorsitter: Sentrale Kerkekommissie

203 churches

+/- 30,000

Apostolic Network of Ministers

Archbishop Owen McGregor

Presiding Archbishop

25 churches

+/- 6,000

Christian Judicial Council

Bishop Masilo Monyai

International President

42 fraternal and 80 independent ministries

 

Council of Charismatic Churches

Pastor Lucas Nkosi

Pastor

420 churches

 

Ecumenical Leadership Council

Pastor Sipho Mahlangu

Pastor

200 churches

 

Episcopal College Of Pentecostal Bishops and Apostles in Africa

Bishop Mazwi Luthuli

Bishop

1,000 churches

 

Every Nation Churches Southern Africa

Pastor Gareth Stead

Pastor (Nation Builder)

80 churches

 

Faith Fellowship

Pastor Richard Crompton

Pastor

70 churches

+/- 15,000

Fellowship of Community Churches

Pastor Morgan Pillay

Pastor

13 churches

+/- 3,000

Great Commission Ministries

Bishop Aaron Makili

Bishop

150 churches

+/- 22,000

Harvest Christian Church

Pastor Daan Botha

Senior Pastor

 

+/- 3,000

Hatfield Christian Church

Senior Pastor Louis Kotze

Senior Pastor

2 churches

+/- 4,500

Inkululeko Yeziswe Association (IYA)

Thembi Tulwana obo

Dr Prophet Radebe

Executive Spokesperson of IYA

65 African Indigenous & Spirituality Churches

+/- 10 million

Joshua Generation Church

Pastor Andrew Selley

Pastor, and apostolic leader of Four12 global partnership of churches

34 churches

 

+/- 5,000

Maranatha Community Church

Pastor Jonathan Mare obo Senior Pastor Leonard Stone

Pastor and Senior Pastor

1 church

+/- 6,000

Moreleta Park Congregation

Peter Badenhorst and Rev Pieter Badenhorst

COO and Rev.

1 (Afrikaans, English, African Language and Youth)

+/- 26,000

Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church

Archbishop Owen McGregor

Presiding Archbishop and Moderator

16 churches

+/- 15,000

Nigerian Pastors Association of South Africa

Bishop Ranti Famodun.

Bishop

200 churches

 

Old Apostolic Church SA

Apostle Willie Scholtz

 

2,000 churches

1,16 mil

Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church

Bishop Glenn Lyons

Bishop

150 churches

+/- 50,000

The Christian Network

Pastor Jonathan Mare obo Senior Pastor Leonard Stone

Pastor and Senior Pastor

200 churches

+/- 35,000

Unity Fellowship Church

Pastor Mukhuba

Pastor

5 churches

+/- 15,000

Vineyard SA

Dr Dave Pedersen

National Director

 

+/- 25,000

Visionary of Hope Restoration Ministries

Reverend Siphiwe Christopher Mathebula

Founder

5 Campuses

+/- 16,000

Willow Hill Vineyard Churches

Pastor Dave Pedersen

Pastor

 

+/- 25,000

Word of Faith Christian Centre,

Port Elizabeth

Pastor Richard Crompton

Pastor

20 branch churches

+/- 3,000 members in each branch

Adv Nadene Badenhorst

Adv Nadene Badenhorst is an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa. She serves as FOR SA’s full-time Legal Counsel. For her full bio, see https://forsa.org.za/about-us/our-team/

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