Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe was turned away at the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) star in Moria outside Polokwane, Limpopo, because he apparently failed to produce an invitation.But in a new twist, Radebe's confidante claimed that he was invited two months ago to attend the annual Easter pilgrimage at the weekend.
"Arrangement was made with the church," the confidante said. "When he arrived, there were people sitting in the front row. Church officials wanted to remove those people to make space for him."
Radebe reportedly then refused and said he cannot get preferential treatment at a religious function.
"However, [I] believe that this was an act of sabotage because Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was speaking at another smaller St Engenas ZCC.
"Some said how could the minister in the Presidency go [and] speak at a bigger church function than Ramaphosa.
"That is where the mischief comes from because he left voluntarily; now people are creating this dust around him [Radebe]."
The confidante did not provide proof of the invitation to Radebe.
The ZCC star guest list included Limpopo premier Stanley Mathabatha, axed cabinet ministers Ngoako Ramatlhodi and Dipuo Peters, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and prominent businessman Richard Maponya.
Radebe's name, however, did not appear on the list of invited guests.
A source close to the church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Radebe was also turned away when he failed to produce an invitation letter at the entrance of the neighbouring St Engenas ZCC.
"He tried his luck at the St Engenas ZCC but was still rejected on the basis that he failed to produce an invitation letter," said the source.
Leader of the ZCC Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane's right-hand man, Emmanuel Motolla, yesterday said he was neither aware that Radebe had been invited nor had been turned away.
"I'm not aware of that as I was so busy over the weekend and that is not my territory anyway," Motolla said.
EFF leader Julius Malema, who set the alarm bells ringing over Radebe's apparent ZCC rejection, said he was still waiting to hear from the minister how it went in the church.
"I know for sure that Radebe was turned away after he bragged about having been invited to the ZCC," Malema said.
"The minister must just give us feedback because the public must know the truth."
Attempts to get comment from Radebe drew a blank yesterday as his mobile phone was unreachable. His chief of staff, Phillip Msengwa, requested that questions be sent through via SMS but had not responded at the time of going to print.