To make matters worse, the police in several parts of the Free State including Botshabelo, Welkom, Bloemfontein, Qwaqwa and Sasolburg, have turned a blind eye on proceedings meaning churches are often overcrowded.
Ministers and worshippers believe the COVID-19 restrictions violate their religious rights even though religious gatherings can double up as potential super-spreader events.
Last year a prayer breakfast at the Divine Restoration church in Bloemfontein made headlines when over 800 people, including international visitors, gathered to celebrate Easter. More than 390 people tested positive for the virus.
A driver at a lodge that housed five overseas guests who attended church event at the Divine Restoration Ministries in Bloemfontein has died from COVID-19, becoming the second person in the #FreeState to succumb to the virus #CoronaVirusSA
— The Free Stater (@The_Free_Stater) April 3, 2020
President of the National Church Council (NCC), Dr Hlobo Monokoane, has called on church leaders to remain defiant and get to work.
Labelled ‘anti-COVID’ by some, Monokoane has refused to respond to any questions.
Free State: Community threatens to vandalise churches
Members of the community in Botshabelo have also threatened to vandalise churches that are not adhering to the restrictions. The virus has found its way into Sunday sermons, minister meetings and Christian youth camps throughout the province. COVID-19 safe or not, no place of worship has escape unscathed.
Health-e News can confirm that Monokoane and other pastors refuse to wear masks while presiding over services and continue to maintain physical contact with worshippers.
Free State Police spokesperson Motantsi Makhele has called on the community to help authorities in reporting these incidents.
“You’d notice that we attend to matters which are reported to us and we cannot be in all the churches at once. I urge our people to come forward and report these churches,” said Makhele.
The NCC is yet to respond. – Health-e News