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MBABANE – Six churches were yesterday closed by the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) for non- compliance with the COVID-19 regulations which banned gatherings.

These are churches which were found recording their services to broadcast live  through Facebook and YouTube platforms. The Straight Gate International Church is among the churches which were closed by the police. Information gathered from a reliable source, who preferred to comment on condition of anonymity, was that they were fined E500 as an admission of guilt before being allowed to record again.

This, she said, interrupted their service as they had already alerted people that they would be live- streaming the service from 9:30am. She said there were five people who were found inside the church who were to assist in recording the sermon to be live-streamed. “Just before the pastor could come in, the police officers ordered the team to leave everything and follow them to the police station as we were being arrested,” she said. The source said they were surprised as there was no church service going on and the gate was locked and the fact that most churches were live-streaming as well. “Most churches had brought their entire praise and worship teams, but were not forced to close. With us, it was only selected members for the live-streaming,” she said. The source said once they were at the police station, they were told that the regulations clearly stipulated that churches should be closed. According to the source, they were unable to pay the fine and promised to report to the police station today to settle it.

When reached for comment, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer, Superintendent Phindile Vilakati, confirmed that there were some churches that were closed for having gathering. She said the regulations were against people gatherings. Vilakati stated that they would continue to arrest church members if they were found to have contravened the COVID-19 regulations.

Meanwhile, some churches in the country seemed to have adhered to government’s call to shut their doors. Following the Acting Prime Minister Themba Nhlanganiso Masuku’s announcement on the ban of all gatherings, churches opted to live-stream their services. Masuku said; “All gatherings of all sizes are prohibited except gatherings for burials. Physical meetings, when absolutely necessary for the first line respondents are limited to 20 people, beyond which only virtual meetings should be held.”  


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