The Zion Christian Church (ZCC) has postponed its Easter Conference that was scheduled to take place in April amid the coronavirus pandemic until further notice. This as 19 more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed taking the total number of cases in the country to 85.
Speaking to SABC News on Tuesday, the church Spokesperson, Reverend Emmanuel Motolla confirmed that the church had decided to postpone their annual pilgrimage and would announce a new date once normality has been restored.
“To set the record straight, the Zion Christian Church has postponed this years’ annual Easter pilgrimage, held at the headquarters of Moria, due to the coronavirus, or known as COVID-19. The church’s spiritual leader, Dr. BE Lekganyane, took the decision on Friday, March 13, 2020, after the church was briefed by the national government delegation, led by the Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize,” says Motolla.
Never, in the history of the ZCC, since its inception in 1910, has the biggest church in Southern Africa had to postpone or cancel its pilgrimage but Motolla says this was necessary in the interest of the society at large.
Since Sunday, as many organisations were announcing cancellations of their respective events, focus was being turned onto the ZCC who remained mum on their plans for their Easter conference. However, Motolla says due, internal processes had to be followed before an announcement was made public.
“While the decision was taken on Friday, the church decided not go public about it until all its structures were officially informed,” he says. “A further meeting is scheduled for this weekend to give members more information about the virus.”
Decision taken “out of concern”
Motolla says the ZCC, under the spiritual leadership of Dr. BE Lekganyane, was not under pressure to make the decision, but in fact took the initiative “out of concern” last week Monday to invite the Health Minister to brief the church on the matter, after the initial cases of the virus were confirmed in the country.
In the audio below, Reverend Motolla explains the decision to postpone:
“Concerned about the confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country, the ZCC invited Minister Mkhize on Monday, to come and brief the church about the impact of the disease (and) how the national government was handling it, the necessary precautionary measures and how the ZCC could help in mitigating the impact of the pandemic.”
New date to be announced
According to Motolla, the church will announce a new date for the conference once normality has been restored in the country.
“A new date for the Easter pilgrimage will be announced once normality prevails in the country because we don’t know how long this pandemic is really going to punish the world as it is doing right now,” says Motolla.
Earlier on Tuesday, in a letter sent out by the church council, and seen by SABC News, the church requested their branches to send to Moria members who are “Doctors, professional nurses and Emergency Services” professionals who are on the different branches’ District Property Task Team (DPTT).
No details were given out in the letter as to what exactly would be discussed, but it was understood that the church would seek further professional opinion on the developments before it could make an informed decision about the annual conference, in view of the deadly virus that has affected the entire world.
However, Motolla says it is a meeting for the church to discuss ways to play its part in mitigating the spread of the virus.
So far, 85 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the country. Globally, more than 190 000 cases of the virus have been confirmed with almost 8000 deaths. Just over 80 000 people have recovered from the virus. China, the epicentre of the virus, has been the hardest-hit country with more than 80 000 confirmed cases and more than 3200 deaths.
On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the situation a national disaster, prohibiting among others, gatherings of more than 100 people, which directly impacts the ZCC’s annual conference.
In the neighbouring country of Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has also declared COVID-19 a national disaster. This although the country has yet to record its first confirmed case of the virus.
In the below, it is announced gatherings of more than a hundred people have also been banned in Zimbabwe:
Easter services cancelled
The Catholic Church in Johannesburg has cancelled all its Easter services. The Archdiocese of Johannesburg, the biggest Archdiocese in the country, says it will be impossible to control the number of faithful to less than 100 during the Easter weekend.
Spokesperson for the Catholic Church, Father Mduduzi Ndlovu says they are encouraging the faithful to pray in smaller communities.
“The masses are going to be cancelled starting in Palm Sunday. Masses for Holy Week that is Good Friday, Holy Saturday and so on will be cancelled because of course, we cannot ascertain nor will we be able to have numbers that are below a hundred and other arrangements in the instance that can help us to have masses below a hundred should be taken up.”
Another religious organisation formally heeding the 30-day ban on public gatherings of over 100 people, due to coronavirus is the Durban’s Shri Mariammen Temple in Mount Edgecombe.
The Durban’s Shri Mariammen Temple is a popular destination for thousands of locals and tourists during the Easter period.
In a statement, the temple says while the usual week-long festival has been cancelled, the temple will remain open. It is urging any visitors, however, to maintain strict hygiene levels on site.The eThekwini community church says that from Wednesday it will conduct its services online. These are expected to run throughout the Easter period.
Below is a Live Tracking of the cases, death toll and other information, updated daily: