Leaders of churches representing tens of millions of South Africans yesterday accused the governing African National Congress of trying to co-opt and manipulate them, in a statement reflecting two years of brewing tensions.
"Motshekga, back off from the church!" was the warning sent in a joint statement to Mathole Motshekga, the ANC's parliamentary chief whip and head of its cultural and religious affairs desk.
The one-time allies in the fight to end white rule in South Africa have drawn apart as church leaders have increasingly criticised corruption in the government and the ANC and their apparent inability to address failures in the education and health systems.
They have condemned growing inequality that has the poorest people worse off financially than they were under apartheid while a small black elite led by party officials becomes wealthy.
Mr Motshekga called it "a storm in a teacup".