Durban – President Jacob Zuma on Sunday called on church leaders to concern themselves with praying for the country rather than being preoccupied with politics.

“It is sad to see the church leaders getting mired in matters of politics instead of praying for leaders. I urge the church to pray for us as leaders pray for our people to stop the hatred,” Zuma said.

Some religious leaders such as Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Thabo Makgoba and others have proved a thorn in Zuma’s flesh. They have criticised his leadership and some have urged him to step down as president after some of his scandals.

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Addressing thousands of members of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ during the international Thanksgiving Day event at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Sunday, Zuma could not hide his delight at the wide-ranging sermon of chief apostle Caesar Nongqunga.

Zuma is regularly invited as a guest speaker at the annual event.

“I wish that the sermon was listened to by all South Africans. I also wish that the sermon was listened to by all churches leaders of different churches. People of South Africa need prayers and blessings,” he said, adding that Nongqunga’s sermons could help build a better South Africa.

Nongqunga’s sermon addressed Zuma’s troubles and the need for him to be forgiven. “The Holy Spirit teaches us to forgive the sins of man. It teaches us to get over things… Forgive the unforgivable,” he said.

Nongqunga also spoke of the need to accept the outcome of the August 3 municipal elections, where DA-led coalitions won three metros – Nelson Mandela, Tshwane and Johannesburg – from the ANC.

“Don’t fight them, even if you think they are not worth it,” he said to applause from Zuma and other dignitaries.

He said there was no need for hatred towards the breakaway parties like Cope and EFF. “The word of God teaches us not to hate. It is a sin to hate.”

He defended those who made mistakes, saying through mistakes people learnt to correct their ways.

Zuma said he was happy the sermon had advised what he should do and not do. “We must remember this all the time, that we must work for unity. There should be an end to infighting among politicians… I was happy that the chief apostle spoke at length of how we should conduct ourselves as politicians.

“He gave us wise words of advice, that we must conduct ourselves in an acceptable way to society.”

Also speaking at the event, Premier Willies Mchunu took a swipe at the EFF for destabilising Parliament. “It is a disgrace that he (Zuma) is abused by children who never went through what he experienced,” Mchunu said.

He said Zuma – whom he lauded for bringing peace in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1990s – still had their backing.

eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede asked for the protection of Zuma from all evil.

“He is being attacked by the devil and the devil is using Judas Iscariot,” she said in reference to cabinet ministers who revolted against the president at the ANC national executive committee meeting last week.

The Mercury