The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) in Cape Town has recommended that mosques delay opening for at least another month, despite the National Command Council allowing places of worship to re-open under Level-3 of the lockdown from Monday.
The MJC says it has consulted with medical professionals, its General Majlis and the Fatwa Department in this regard, following concerns that the risk of spreading the virus in the Western Cape is still high.
It says mosques that do wish to open for congregational prayers from next week, should only do so if they are able to fully comply with and adhere to lockdown safety regulations to preserve life.
The MJC recommends a staggered approach, and not to start with a maximum of 50 congregants. It suggests a slow phasing-in of the number of congregants from a smaller number of people and gradually increase the number of worshippers.
The MJC says mosques that do not have adequate resources to ensure the safety of its people should remain closed until it can guarantee adherence to government’s regulations. It further says mosques in Covid-19 hotspots in the Western Cape are recommended to keep its doors shut until the situation in those areas has improved.
Jewish Board uncertain about opening places of worship
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies says a decision is yet to be taken by the Jewish community about whether to open places of worship during Level 3 of the lockdown. The Jewish Board of Deputies says they are concerned about safety during such gatherings.
“The rabbis are meeting to discuss this. The practicalities, the complexities, the normal concerns of how to go about with this process, the decision has not been reached with regard to the outcome of opening or not how, what it will look like until in the next few days there would be consultations. Medical experts are guiding us every step of the way. We have big concerns about the possibility of being able to maintain safety and health if we are open” says Board President Mary Kluk.
Bishop Thimothy Ngcobo, a member of Gods Must Rise Council, has called on the government to compensate churches as they too were financially affected by the national lockdown.
Ngcobo says some of the churches cannot pay rental for buildings where they worship because there were no offerings made the past two months. Ngcobo was in the news recently, when he announced that he would worship during the Easter holidays, although religious gatherings were banned at the start of the lockdown.
Religious gatherings will only be allowed under Level 3 which takes effect on Monday. Ngcobo says they are willing to engage with the President through existing structures.
“We are proposing that the government must give churches the grant called Compensation Grants as it was doing to all essential services. We have lost a lot in the church and even people that were counselling before the lockdown are not in the same status where we were uplifting their morals and spirits in that level. We need now, each and every house, make sure that we don’t lose them as they manage to submit themselves into the house of Lord”
Churches may resume services but limited to 50 people: President
In an announcement that followed a lot of criticism from the religious sector. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that church services may resume under Level 3.
In his address on Tuesday evening, leading a call for a National Day of Prayer, Ramaphosa said the government understood the great impact that the closure of places of worship have had on members of the faith community, which he says has worsened the distress of communities who are unable to worship in congregation.
“Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other recognised places of worship may resume services, but these will be limited in size to 50 people or less depending on the space available,” says Ramaphosa.
He has, however, cautioned that social distancing will have to be observed and all worshippers and participants will have to wear face masks in line with the current regulations.
“All religious organisations must put protocols in place for, among other things, thoroughly cleaning and sanitising places for worship before and after services.”
In the video below President Ramaphosa says churches violating lockdown regulations will be closed down: