The article by Phumelele Hlathi in The Rep of May 21 gave me mixed feelings when he decried the abrupt stopping of school sport due to an escalation in Covid 19 infections. In the article Hlathi feels the real culprits, “churches and drinking establishments,” have been left untouched.
The fact that he juxtaposed churches with ‘drinking establishments’ left a bitter taste in my mouth. He sees these Siamese twins “… as a possible contributing factor to the spike in the infection rate.” Both twins are accused of going back to their establishments in numbers “… with few or no health protocols.” Hlathi confesses to “… have visited drinking establishments a few times in the last few weeks.” I thought he would go further to state how many times he visited churches, but did not. This made me wonder about the basis of his comparison.
I am not a spokesperson of the churches, but churches are expected to observe and respect all health protocols and guidelines issued. Where I am, attendance registers with people’s contact details and their temperatures are kept. All wear masks, observe social distancing, sanitise at entry and at certain intervals during the service. Whoever speaks, sings or preaches does so with their masks on. No one has the right to take off the mask within the church. Times for services are strictly observed.
Having sobered up after the bitter taste, I decided to be objective. I found some truth in what Hlathi penned. I have attended funerals where church choir members sing with their masks under their chins and sing with gusto, and nobody reprimands them. If churches continue with such an attitude, they should not cry foul when likened to taverns. Some priests and members of the public take their masks off when preaching and paying tribute to the deceased, which is wrong. If we continue doing that, we dare not blame the likes of Hlathi when they see churches as belonging to the same WhatsApp group as taverns. Let us all act responsibly to preserve lives.
By Sabelo Bantwini Jayiya