Religious Leaders’ Open Letter to the President

by FOR SA
23 July 2021

23 July 2021

Dear President Ramaphosa and Minister Dlamini-Zuma,

OPEN LETTER: RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS UNDER THE CURRENT ADJUSTED LEVEL 4 REGULATIONS

1. We, the undersigned religious leaders, address this letter to you in response to the Government’s call to religious leaders and their congregants to pray for South Africa, and – as you put it during your recent meeting with religious stakeholders on Tuesday, 13 July 2021 – to assist in restoring the moral fibre of our country.

2. Like you, Mr President, we are deeply saddened by the scourge of violence and looting that we have witnessed in various parts of our country during the last week, and that have resulted in the tragic loss of lives and livelihoods of many, and now also in the risk of food insecurity for many more South Africans.

3. As religious leaders, we condemn these acts of lawlessness and anarchy that have threatened our people’s sense of safety and security – this, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic, over the last 16 months, has claimed the lives of thousands of South Africans and continues to grip many with fear.

4. Against this background, we commend Government’s declared intentions, and indeed the steps taken thus far, to decisively deal with the instigators and perpetrators of the attacks. We believe that decisive action will send a strong message to all, that this attack on our democracy – and ultimately, on the people of South Africa – will not be tolerated, and will also go a long way in instilling confidence in our country’s current leadership.

5. We want to assure you of our own commitment – to earnestly pray for our country, but also to partner with you in rebuilding the communities that have been affected by recent events. To this end, many of us (and our congregants) are involved in cleaning efforts, food distribution, and practical care for persons, in the affected communities.

6. We also remain committed to speaking hope to, and lifting the morale, of our people at a time when this is most needed. We believe that God has a good plan for South Africa, will bless her, and let her be a light to the nations – if we turn to Him and choose to walk in His ways.

7. For the millions of South Africans who are people of faith, this includes the ability to – safely and responsibly, and subject to all the COVID-19 protocols – physically meet together with other adherents of their faith to pray, worship and encourage one another.

8. We appreciate Government’s concern for the health and safety of our people during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its preference that religious communities – for this reason – rather meet online than in person during this time. The reality is, however, that many South Africans, particularly the poor and those in communities that are most needy, do not have access to internet facilities and/or data, and are therefore – for as long as religious gatherings remain prohibited in terms of the Lockdown Regulations – completely cut off from any interaction with their religious leaders and communities.

9. As you are aware, Mr President, it is for this reason also that the religious stakeholders present at the meeting with you on Tuesday, 13 July 2021, requested that religious gatherings be opened up so that they can meet with their congregants in person – to pray, as you have asked, but also to speak into the current situation following last week’s riots and unprecedented wreckage.

10. We take note of the Regulations that were subsequently promulgated by the COGTA Minister (in Government Gazette number 44844, on Wednesday, 14 July 2021), allowing religious leaders to hold “community engagements” to deal with “emergency matters”, without a specific limitation on numbers, which was in keeping with your discussion with religious leaders the previous night.

11. On the same day, a new Regulation was promulgated, revoking this Regulation. This second Regulation (in Government Gazette number 44850) allowed religious leaders to hold “community engagements” up to a maximum of 50 people (or, in the case of a smaller venue, up to 50% of the capacity of the venue). In this regard, the following however:

11.1. The second Regulation, oddly, restricts such gatherings to “community engagements … to deal with emergency matters that impact on the management, treatment and prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic” (subsection (4A)); and

11.2. In terms of the Adjusted Level 4 Regulations, “faith-based gatherings” remain prohibited (Regulation 21(2)), and it remains a criminal offence for anyone to convene, or attend, such a gathering (Regulation 21(19) and (20)). (These provisions have not been revoked by the Regulations of 14 July 2021, and therefore stand).

12. In the circumstances, and given the seeming contradiction in the Regulations, it is not clear whether religious gatherings may legally take place at all – or whether, in the event of convening with their religious community (even for the specific purpose of discussing the recent riots and praying for peace in our country), the religious leaders and their congregants run the risk of being prosecuted for committing a criminal offence.

13. Mr President, it is the sincere desire of the religious leaders and communities of this country, to obey the laws of the country. Our country does not need any more protest or unrest. It needs Government and civil society – including the religious community – to trust one another and to join hands, for the healing of our nation and restoration of our moral fibre.

14. In the circumstances, we appeal to you to remove the remaining ban on religious gatherings in the current Regulations, and to allow religious communities to meet unhindered and without any statutory restrictions on the reasons for their meeting together (as is contained in the Regulations of 14 July 2021), subject, of course, to all the COVID-19 protocols.

15. Finally, the undersigned signatories (the majority of which is not represented by the other religious structures typically consulted by your Office) would appreciate an urgent opportunity to meet with you, to discuss the contents of this letter and how we, within our respective spheres of authority and influence, can possibly take hands to best serve the people of South Africa at this difficult time.

Yours faithfully,

The undersigned signatories:

 

 OrganisationChurches/CongregantsOffice Bearer
1Acts Christian Church13 316 membersPastor Peter De Finn
2AAFC498 churchesArchbishop Tsekedi
3Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk (APK)206 churches, 30 000 membersPastor Johan Schütte
4All Africa Bishops Council45 Archbishops and Bishops with membersArchbishop Owen McGregor
5Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches in South Africa622 churches, +100 000 membersBishop Samuel Ndlovu
6Anti-Regulation Forum2 million membersDr Shimmy Kotu
7Apostolic Network of Minsters75 pastors and their churchesArchbishop Owen McGregor
8Bay Christian Church, Gqeberha80 membersPastor Alain Walljee
9Christian Family Church (CFC)1 200 churches, 150 000 membersDr Johnny Slabbert
10Christian Lawyers Association (CLA)A religious, professional, interdenominational non-profit association, serving and representing Christian lawyers in South Africa in matters of justice, ethics, law and policy.Advocate Reg Willis
11Christian Ministers Council of SA1 985 churchesBishop Julius Moloi
12Christian Revival Church (CRC)200 000 membersPastor At Boshoff
13Cornerstone Church, Johannesburg5 000 membersAdvocate Werner Badenhorst
14Council Of Charismatic Churches (COCC)1 200 churches, 100 000 membersPastor Lucas Nkosi
15DCC Jesus Dome, DCC Hillcrest, DCC Phoenix7 700 membersPastor John Torrens
16Durban Christian Centre Bluff2 500 membersPastor Johnny Grobler
17Ecumenical Leadership Council17 000 membersPastor Sipho Mahlangu
18Every Nation Churches and Ministries90 churches, 40 000 members, across all 9 provincesPastor Gareth Stead
19Fellowship of Community Churches12 churches, 5 000 membersPastor Morgan Pillay
20Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA)A legal advocacy group working to protect religious freedom in South AfricaMr Michael Swain
21Full Gospel Church SA1 480 churchesPastor Stafford Petersen
22Global Restoration of Apostolic and Prophetic Order40 churchesArchbishop Gladstone Botwana
23Great Commission Ministries320 churchesBishop Aaron Makili
24Hatfield Christian Church4 600 membersPastor Louis Kotze
25Hope Restoration Ministries, Kempton Park18 000 membersPastor Chris Mathebula
26Inkululeko Yeziswe Association (IYA)Approx. 10 million people from 65 African Indigenous and Spirituality denominations and structures across the RSADr Prophet uZwi-Lezwe Radebe
27Joshua Generation ChurchJoshua Generation Church, representing approx. 5 000 members across 37 congregations in the RSA. Pastor Selley also leads Four12 Global, an apostolic partnership of churches having 77 congregations in the RSA.  Pastor Andrew Selley
28Moreletapark Gemeente+/- 26 000 membersPastor Pieter Breytenbach
29Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church35 churches and 15 000 membersArchbishop Owen McGregor
30National Advisory Council of Christian Movements..Prof Mbulelo Dyasi
31Nicky van der Westhuizen Revival Ministries NPC, Supernatural Ministries Incorporated and Movement of the SupernaturalNBCFC branches: 1 437 members. Churches/ministries under covering and represented:28 churches/ministries throughout SA, approx. 3 000 network members.Dr Nicky & Lillian Van der Westhuizen
32Nigerian Pastors Association of South Africa500 churchesBishop Ranti Famodun
33Pietermaritsberg for Jesus50 churchesPastor Neville Sewlall
34Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of SA (REACH-SA)+/- 150 churches, 50 000 membersBishop Glenn Lyons
35SAIPPREM: Agape Family Church200 membersRev JA Ferreira
36SAIPPREM: Charis Worship Centre150 membersPastor Densten Hendricks
37SAIPPREM: House of Glory Apostolic Mission60 membersPastor Desmond Barry
38SAIPPREM: Immanuel University of Theology and Montana Schools24 familiesProf Ernest Nan Greuning
39SAIPPREM: Moment of Grace Worship Centre45 membersPastor Johannes Mhalo
40SAIPPREM: Open Heaven Ministries250 membersPastor Denzel Fuller
41SAIPPREM: Prince of Peace International Ministries SA2 000 membersApostle BF Prince
42Seventh-day Adventist Church of South Africa+/- 200 000 membersMr Andrew Du Preez
43Three Cord Development Services2 000 membersPastor Barry Isaacs
44Transformation Africa3 000 membersPastor Barry Isaacs
45Truevine Churches16 churches, 2 000+ membersBishop Nathi Zondi
46Unity Fellowship Church+/- 15 000 membersPastor TT Mukhuba
47Vineyard Churches25 000 membersDr Dave Pedersen
48Waypoint Community Church350 membersLead Pastor Jacques Whittle
49Wesleyan Church of Southern Africa+/- 5 000 membersRev Cheryl Jonck
50Word of Faith Christian Centre20 churches, 7 000 membersAdvocate Richard Crompton
51Zoe Bible Church30 churchesArchbishop Gladstone Botwana
50Word of Faith Christian Centre20 churches, 7 000 membersAdvocate Richard Crompton
51Zoe Bible Church30 churchesArchbishop Gladstone Botwana
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