Whether you are a president, millionaire, premier, minister or a cashier – there is one thing in common among all who ascend the uphill Dwendwe to reach the top of the Khanane Holy Mountain, which is home to hundreds of congregants of the Shembe Church: walking barefoot.
A sea of singing white-clad worshippers – with man referred to as mhlalisuthi, girls called makhosazane, elderly women referred to as ntethelelo and ngudlungudle, (depending on their head scarves) – yesterday awaited President Cyril Ramaphosa who was expected to make yet another pilgrimage, until a delegation led by ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala arrived with a message that Ramaphosa was no longer coming due to heavy mist.
So intense was the mist in Durban that it became difficult for Ramaphosa’s chopper to risk proceeding to the even mistier mountain.
But that did not dampen the spirits of the congregants, with men holding their sticks and at times kneeling and praying in what has become a holy village of KwaZulu-Natal.
Some people erected tents around the church site.
Zikalala, standing in for Ramaphosa, was accompanied by Durban Mayor Zandile Gumede and other party heavyweights.
Speaking in isiZulu, he had to make some explaining to church leader Mduduzi Shembe, why Ramaphosa could not make it.
Zikalala: “The president, who has been here before, wanted to be with you but could not make it because of the mist, which has made it difficult for his chopper to proceed from Durban.
“We are here to thank you for the good working relationship you have had with the ANC and the provincial government.
“We make a humble request that you pray for peace, unity and the renewal of the ANC as we are going to the elections.”
Later responding to a question from the media after his address, on whether it was not an ANC strategy to use the church to garner more votes during elections, Zikalala said: “No, it is not an ANC strategy to do so.
“We have an organic and historical relationship spanning many years with the Shembe Church.
“They are playing a critical role in the cohesion of society and the unity of the ANC, also addressing challenges of a community afflicted by social ills.”
In the run-up to this year’s elections, the ANC has pulled all the stops to address all stakeholders that matter, with Ramaphosa yesterday having addressed the youth in the afternoon and professionals in the evening.