Politicians get spiritual

2014-04-20 15:00

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Politicians have taken to churches over the Easter weekend in their numbers to campaign for the upcoming elections?– but some religious leaders don’t approve.

On Good Friday, President Jacob Zuma started at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God at Joburg’s Ellis Park stadium, where he asked congregants to vote for the ANC on May 7. He then went to a Hindu temple in Durban.

DA leader Helen Zille and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are expected to attend the Zion Christian Church services in Moria, outside Polokwane, this morning.

DA spokesperson Mmusi Maimane, an ordained pastor, was invited to deliver a sermon at the Believers’ Centre in Orlando, Soweto, today.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa yesterday told 2?000 worshippers at the Burning Bush Ministries in East London that they should be angry at the ANC for the Nkandla scandal as it had given them Zuma.

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota was scheduled to attend two churches in Soweto yesterday afternoon. But while congregants welcomed them, the SA Council of Churches (Sacc) was not as enthusiastic.

Sacc’s general secretary, Mautji Pataki, said: “Congregants belong to all political parties. We cannot afford to divide their divine attention by political ideology.

“We cannot stop [politicians] from coming to churches, but what we are calling for is restraint. When they come, it should be for worship, not to canvass for membership,” he said.

Zuma addressed Universal Church of the Kingdom of God members from the stadium pitch on Friday, saying that they should vote in honour of ANC leaders like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.

“In their memory, let South Africans come out in their millions to vote on May 7 in celebration of this hard-won right to choose a government of our choice, the ANC,” he said.

Church members at the packed stadium sang Zuma’s favourite song, Awuleth’ Umshini Wami, as he entered the venue. He did not join in.

Later though, he sang Inde lendlela.

Church spokesperson Nametso Mofokeng said Zuma was invited in his capacity as the president of the country, not as the ANC leader.

“We know and believe what the Bible says, that if you pray for authorities and the leader of the nation you will be blessed. “Church members know that the church does not involve itself in politics,” she said.

Holomisa told worshippers the UDM would not waste its time on the impeachment of Zuma.

“The ANC made Zuma president of South Africa. They must deal with him. There is already a precedent where they removed President [Thabo] Mbeki when they did not want him. They must do the same with Zuma,” Holomisa said to wild applause.

The Rhema Bible Church did not have any official visits from politicians over the Easter weekend after a visit by Zuma before the 2009 elections sparked controversy among congregants.

Zuma was ANC president at the time and had not yet been appointed as the country’s president.

Church spokesperson Giet Khosa said: “Politicians are welcome in our church, but we don’t allow them on the platform to campaign. “But anybody is welcome to attend our church to praise and to worship God and to listen to the message.”

Maimane, a regular churchgoer, said he would go to the Believers’ Centre in Orlando today to “hear and to respond” about “where they are as a church”.

The church is being threatened with eviction by the City of Joburg.

Maimane said churches should not be “co-opted” by political parties. “The church should be more like a stakeholder in holding government to account,” he said.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said there was nothing wrong with politicians going to churches. “People who attend churches are not immune to political developments in a country,” he said.

“The politicians are often invited to attend churches, they don’t impose themselves. “For us as the ANC, churches remain important,” Khoza said, adding that the party’s first leader was a priest and that many churches, including Sacc, had supported the struggle against apartheid.

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