Ramaphosa defends decision to reopen churches, welcomes ZCC’s decision to remain closed

President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the government’s decision to allow religious gatherings during alert level 3 that starts on 1 June.

In an interview with SABC News on Thursday, Ramaphosa said the decision was based on the religious community’s own proposals regarding health and hygiene protocols.

“Having heard them and made sure that they are going to take responsibility to adhere to all those regulations, we thought that [designating them] as essential workers was a fair point because quite a number of people are distressed and need counselling,” he said.

Ramaphosa welcomes ZCC’s decision

The President added, “Having listened very carefully to how they will craft their norms and standards and how they will encourage good behaviour among their members, we felt that we could accede.”

Ramaphosa said he was “pleased” with the way religious groups are finding ways of managing the situation despite the decision to allow gatherings.

He said, “The churches themselves are in a process of counselling their members that those who are over 60 [should] pray at home. They are also inserting another provision that singing should not be the order of the day and dancing should also be limited or curtailed.

“I’ve just heard that the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), for instance, has said that they are not going to open. It’s something that we welcome because they deal with much larger numbers. So, there is self-regulation at that level and I think that those many other types of churches may well go that way as well.”

‘Government will intervene’

Ramaphosa also cautioned places of worship that the government will take action in case they contravene level 3 regulations.

He said, “Many people have said, ‘Trust the people of South Africa.’ And leaders have also said, ‘Trust us.’ So, we are putting our trust in the people of South Africa and of course, where we see that that trust is misplaced, government will act. We will intervene.

“For instance, if we find that some congregations go way beyond the numbers that we have agreed with them, we will intervene and we will close those places.”

Asked why restaurants will still not be allowed to open for sit-in meals during level 3, Ramaphosa said consultations with the sector only began recently.

“We are giving consideration to their views. We met with the restauranteurs, hoteliers and casino owners, so we are listening to all [of them],” he explained.

To listen to the full interview on YouTube, click here.

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