Free State Premier Ace Magashule giveth – and he taketh away.
Last Sunday, Magashule told the congregants of the Tyrannus Apostolic Church – one of the country’s biggest – that they now “owned” land in Bethlehem.
Magashule was speaking to a packed Botshabelo stadium during a church service.
The church has been trying to secure the Wolhuterskop Nature Reserve in Bethlehem as a permanent home and has already been given permission by Dihlabeng Local Municipality to use this site for services.
Magashule’s rapturously received statement – which City Press’ sister paper Volksblad witnessed last Sunday – suggested the church’s battle was at an end.
But now he’s backtracked, telling City Press yesterday that he was merely announcing the “arrangement” that allowed the church to use the reserve for its services.
Magashule said: “They have been requesting to use the land. I was told that, in my absence, there is a process to let them use it while we are looking at whether it is possible to finally give them the land as a church.
“There isn’t anything tangible that has been signed. There will be further discussions among all spheres of government. They don’t want it for free.
“I don’t understand what the big fuss is about.”
He said part of the land was municipal and the rest was owned by the department of public works.
“All the time, people make different requests. We also assist them. This church deals with issues of women abuse and poverty. We are in partnership with not only them but the Zion Christian Church, the Muslims, the Methodists.”
He confirmed making the announcement last Sunday, but said: “I simply announced the arrangement. We haven’t signed anything. Any land disposal has to come to me as premier.”
Dihlabeng Mayor Chatane Mofokeng said he was not aware of any ownership deal with the Tyrannus Apostolic Church.
“I can neither confirm nor deny whether the municipality has sold the land to the church,” said Mofokeng.
“I didn’t attend the church event (last Sunday).”
Magashule, a number of Free State MECs and Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba were among those who did attend the event, which formed part of the church’s three-day youth conference.
Magashule, Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane and the church’s leader, apostle Simon Mokoena, were seated on gold-encrusted chairs on the stage. After the sermons, fireworks were set off from the stage.
Magashule used his time at the podium for a spot of politicking as well as land matters – he encouraged the congregation to vote ANC in next year’s national election.
Mokoena, clad in a blue and gold suit, thanked Magashule for his sterling leadership and support of the church.
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