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‘MPS HAVE TURNED AGAINST THE CHURCH’

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LOBAMBA- League of Churches President Bishop Samson Hlatjwako is of the impression that Members of Parliament have turned against the church during the COVID-19 pandemic.


This follows a stance taken by MPs concerning the number of people allowed in churches amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ideally, when the country went on a partial lockdown, government allowed 50 people in churches and in any gatherings, including funerals and weddings. However, considering the seriousness of the pandemic, government reduced the number to 20.


This lasted until the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, eased the partial lockdown to open the economy. The premier allowed more businesses to operate with the intent to resuscitate the economy.


Allowed


The Ministry of Home Affairs, headed by Princess Lindiwe, met with church leaders to discuss the number of people who could be allowed during a service.


The minister met with the League of Churches, Conference of Churches and the Council of Churches to discuss the issue. A consensus from the meeting was that the number of people in churches should increase to 70 per cent of the church capacity.
The clergymen agreed that the percentage would be informed by the holding capacity of the churches.


An announcement was made to that effect; however, there was another announcement which stated that the number of people in churches should be 70.


This came with mixed feelings to the nation. Some welcomed the idea while others raised their doubts. MPs had an urgent sitting where they debated the issue before reversing the decision announced by the minister. Interestingly, the premier told MPs that the decision on churches was taken by Cabinet collectively. 

The legislators unanimously agreed that the number of people in churches should go back to 20 as the numbers of infected people were increasing. When asked about the current stance, Hlatjwako thanked the premier for affording the church an opportunity to meet the ministry concerning the number of people allowed in churches.


The bishop said it was the church leaders’ decision that the number of congregants should increase to 70 per cent. The man of God said their decision was informed by the fact that churches served as therapy centres when most people had challenge. He said even now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the church had a major role to play.


 He made an example that churches were giving hope to the people who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic. He said they were also giving hope to those who had tested positive for the virus. The man of God said churches were well informed about the precautionary measures and were ready to comply.


Amendments


“Our government is at liberty to make amendments and we are ready to accept them. We will accept whatever decision from the government,” he said.
However, the man of God was quick to state that they were not happy in the manner the issue of churches was dealt with in Parliament. He stated that MPs did not consider the church’s position yet they (church leaders) had reasons when they came up with the percentage. He stated that the 70 per cent was good for churches.

An investigation carried out by this publication revealed that some churches had a capacity of about 4 000 in the country.  This means that the church could accomodate 2 800 people if the 70 per cent was allowed. Some churches have a capacity of 500 people, which means these could accomodate 350 people if 70 per cent was to be allowed.


“I believe about 90 per cent of the legislators are believers and God-fearing people. We were hoping that the MPs will represent the churches, but they seemed to have turned against us.
Taxes
“They said churches do not pay taxes and you wonder what they are talking about. Are they referring to the buildings?” asked Hlatjwako.


He said the fact that Christians bought from shops meant that they supported the economy. The man of God also wondered why the legislators considered legalising dagga, but had other things to say about the church.


Meanwhile, Father B. Magongo stated that churches rendered essential services in Eswatini as they remained the strongest pillar of the country. Magongo lamented those who still doubted the importance of churches.


According to Magongo, the country should avail more prayer opportunities in the country. He thanked Their Majesties for observing the importance of prayer in the country.


“We are marching with Jesus today, it doesn’t matter that we are faced with challenges. The country has gone far with prayer. We pray for the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has a mandate to fulfil the dream of the Their Majesties. As Jesus ascends to Heaven today, He will be the King of all people including emaSwati,” said Magongo.

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