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Hundreds tie the knot in Easter mass wedding

A bride and a groom wait during the Easter Sunday mass wedding ceremony, organised by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church Jerusalem City (IPHC), with more than 800 couples taking part, in Kgabalatsane in the North-West province, South Africa, April 9, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

More than 800 couples walked down the aisle on Easter Sunday in one of the biggest mass wedding ceremonies in South Africa since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Pentecost Holiness Church blesses polygamous unions, which are common in some African communities, and the church says are authorised by the Bible.

Hundreds tie the knot in Easter mass wedding in South Africa
A groom dances as he is followed by some of the more than 800 couples taking part in the Easter Sunday mass wedding ceremony, organised by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church Jerusalem City (IPHC), in Kgabalatsane, in the North-West province, South Africa, April 9, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Its mass nuptials take place three times a year – at Easter, in December, and also during the celebrations in September of the church’s founding in 1962.

Lebogile Mamatela, 38, a government employee who became the second wife to the father of her child on Sunday, told Reuters after the ceremony: “It’s a special day, I am very happy. I really, really appreciate this moment of being part of the Mahluku family. It’s a great feeling.”

Hundreds tie the knot in Easter mass wedding in South Africa
A groom walks behind his first wife and his new bride, as more than 800 couples take part in the Easter Sunday mass wedding ceremony, organised by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church Jerusalem City (IPHC), in Kgabalatsane in the North-West province, South Africa, April 9, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Her new husband, Roto Mahluku, 40, joined the church in 1993 and married his first wife, Ditopa Mahluku, 16 years ago. They have three children.

Ditopa, 37, said her husband’s second marriage was “fulfilling what God has created for us, fulfilling the scripture that says women will be leaning towards one man”.

Hundreds tie the knot in Easter mass wedding in South Africa
Church members watch the arrival of more than 800 couples taking part in the Easter Sunday mass wedding ceremony, organised by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church Jerusalem City (IPHC), in Kgabalatsane, in the North-West province, South Africa, April 9, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Current wives wore colourful attire to the ceremony at the International Pentecost Holiness Church’s Jerusalem congregation, 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Johannesburg. First-time brides wore traditional white dresses.

The celebrations were a respite from a long-standing row over the leadership of the church, which has a membership of around three million, making it one of the biggest congregations in South Africa.

Hundreds tie the knot in Easter mass wedding in South Africa
Priest Vusi Ndala wait during the Easter Sunday mass wedding ceremony, organised by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church Jerusalem City (IPHC), with Philisiwe Ndala and Noko Ndala, his first wife and new bride, to form a polygamous union, in Kgabalatsane, in the North-West province, South Africa, April 9, 2023. More than 800 couples take part in the Easter Sunday mass wedding ceremony. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The succession battle between three brothers began after the death in 2016 of the church’s leader, Glayton Modise.

In 2020 five people were killed in a shooting at another congregation of the church, but a court last year dismissed the case against the 42 accused.

Security was tight at Sunday’s ceremony, which was policed by armed guards and metal detectors were used to screen the congregation.

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