President Cyril Ramaphosa is leading a delegation of ministers for a meeting with bishops of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) on Sunday as part of coronavirus interventions, ahead of what is usually a massive Easter pilgrimage to Moria in Limpopo.
Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathala was part of the delegation to meet with Bishops Engenas Lekganyane and Barnabas Lekganyane.
The Presidency said it was a courtesy visit to express gratitude to the Zion churches, to provide update on government’s response to curbing the spread of the coronavirus, to seek the advice and counsel of the church, and to ask for prayers for the nation in the fight against Covid-19.
By Saturday, Limpopo had 18 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to the Department of Health.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said the purpose of the visit was also to thank the church for not having its Good Friday service.
After Ramaphosa announced that, due to the declaration of a national state of disaster, gatherings would be restricted to fewer than 100 people in one place, there was uncertainty over whether the ZCC would cancel the massive pilgrimage to Moria in Limpopo, where a huge camp is set up for devotees who spend the Easter weekend praying.
The convoys of buses and fully laden vehicles, and the tent cities that mark this gathering, would also have put the meeting in violation of coronavirus lockdown regulations.
Concerns over church gatherings as a potential risk for the spread of the virus appeared to have been validated after a gathering in Bloemfontein, attended by national and international guests, was linked to the first cases in Free State.
Pastor Angus Buchan and African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe revealed that they had tested positive for the virus after attending the service.
The third Covid-19-related death in South Africa was confirmed to be an 85-year-old man in Bloemfontein. He was an elderly pastor, who was also at the Bloemfontein church gathering attended by five international guests who later tested positive for the coronavirus.