<strong>HARARE</strong> - The Harare City Council (HCC) is accusing apostolic church sects of invading the local authority's suburban parks by illegally worshiping in recreational spaces.</p>
According to HCC’s environmental management committee latest minutes, the churches are mostly invading parks in high density suburbs.
The concern comes as the council banned open-air worship without permit.
The local authority also imposed a curfew on worship times and need to reduce noise pollution, among other restrictions on churches.
“The committee expressed concern on illegal occupation of most council parks by apostolic sects, chief among them being in Budiriro, Glen Norah, Mabvuku and Sunningdale parks,” the minutes stated.
Chairperson of the committee Herbert Gomba tasked the director of housing, Edmore Nhekairo, to ensure that the parks are protected from invasions.
“We want all those parks to be securely fenced and enforcement action be taken to remove all those illegal occupants. Anyone who wants a place of worship should do so within the confines of council by-laws,” Gomba said.
According to the Control of Worship in Open Spaces by-law, prospective public worshippers must have ablution facilities and potable water inspected by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) at the proposed site.
Though an application to worship in public may be filed through the EHO, the city has the discretion to approve or decline the application taking into consideration the Public Health and Environmental Acts.
The by-law also states that worship time would be set between 1000 hours and 1800 hours.
Objections of the by-law during its drafting process were received from the Pentecostal Apostolic Church, Johane Masowe-Chishanu Apostles, Harare Province Central Fellowship Apostolic Church, Ebenezer Holy Church and the Council of Apostolic Church of Zimbabwe.
Among the objections was the lack of how much the permit fees would be, and the curfew of 10:00 to 18:00 infringed upon freedom of worship and assembly.
“There is no clarity as to what permanent or temporary toilets meant. It had been said that if temporary toilets refer to those portable toilets used at functions such as weddings, this would have financial implications as well as logistical implications in so far as the disposal of the waste is concerned. It is also not fair to single out churches yet night clubs, bars, e.t.c. also contributed to noise pollution,” read part of the objections.