Leader of the Gabola Church Tsietsi Makiti (second from left) prepares to baptize newcomers to the church during a service in a bar in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, April 15, 2018.
Photo: Denis Farrell (AP Images)

A South African church is ready to teach men to fish in a sea of Ciroc.

Gabola Church, which was founded eight months ago in a South African township, openly uses that akkka-haul to juice increase its enthusiastic flock.


“We are a church for those who have been rejected by other churches because they drink alcohol,” Gabola’s founder and self-declared pope, Tsietsi Makiti, told the Associated Press. “Gabola Church is established to redeem the people who are rejected, who are regarded as sinners. We drink for deliverance. We are drinking for the Holy Ghost to come into us.”

A pool table adorned with whiskey and beer serves as the altar. There, six ministers solemnly bless various adult beverages. The congregation sings hymns praising the positive effects of drinking, and new members are baptized with beer.

Gabola means “drinking” in Tswana, one of South Africa’s official languages. Gabola now boasts 30 members in the Orange Farm Township, about 35 miles south of Johannesburg.

“Our aim is to convert bars, taverns and shebeens into churches,” said Makiti, dressed in a red robe and with a gold-trimmed bishop’s miter. “And we convert the tavern owners into pastors.”

Photo: Denis Farrell (AP Images)

Of course, the unique place of worship has its critics.

“Gabola has nothing to do with the word of God. Those are not church services,” said Archbishop Modiri Patrick Shole, director of the South African Union Council of Independent Churches. “They are using the Bible to promote taverns and drinking liquor. It is blasphemous. It is heresy and totally against the doctrines.”


He says he is going to come after Gabola for breaking municipal regulations that say churches should not be located near bars.

Makiti counters that many of the professed holy drink at home, and in secret. “We drink openly at our services. We do so in peace and we love each other,” he said.


Makiti said alcohol will only be sold and blessed to people who are 20, two years older than South Africa’s legal drinking age.

Gabola is not affiliated with any other Christian denominations.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Deputy Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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