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KwaZulu-Natal Premier S'bu Ndebele has been criticised by opposition parties for spending taxpayers' money on a four-page colour advertisement thanking a church for "moral upliftment".
The Democratic Alliance was "appalled" that Ndebele "has seen fit to spend R264000 of taxpayers' money on the four-page full-colour advert that appeared in Wednesday's Mercury.
"The advert clearly promotes the premier, his [transport] MEC Bheki Cele and the ANC-led provincial government," party spokesman Reverend Margaret Ambler Moore said.
The advertisement is headlined "The 12 Apostles Church in Christ - A successful Thanksgiving 2008" has served as an example of partnership between the government and religious groups in encouraging moral upliftment in KwaZulu-Natal.
The advert has a large aerial photograph of the church's August 10 gathering and shows thousands of people, buses and a large tent.
Pictures of the premier, Cele and the leadership of the church are splashed across the pages.
"For any government to align themselves in this way with one religion (let alone one denomination) flies in the face of the constitutional principles of South Africa and clashes with a sense of our democratic principles," Moore said
The African Christian Democratic Party's provincial leader, Wayne Thring, said: "The advert creates the impression that there is a certain grouping within the Christian faith that has aligned itself to a particular party."
The spokesman for the premier's office, Logan Maistry, could not confirm the cost of the advert.
He said it had been placed jointly by the church, premier's office and KwaZulu-Natal transport department.
A statement released by the premier's office says: "For the past 14 years the government has partnered with society, including the religious community represented by various faiths, on government programmes."
These programmes included the "Moral Regeneration Programme coordinated by the religious affairs component in the office of the premier".
Referring to the DA's criticism the statement says: "It is strange for an ordained minister to complain about the government applauding the church as an example of a partnership with regards to moral regeneration." -Sapa