HARARE - Thousands of Harare church-goers could find themselves in limbo from this week onwards, after the city council gave more than 100 churches operating from illegal premises around the capital a 48-hour ultimatum to vacate their premises or face the full might of the law, as the council strives to restore order in the city.
Harare City director of Works Phillip Pfukwa warned the churches —which have mushroomed around the capital — at the weekend that they should vacate the council land they had occupied illegally by today, failing which they would be removed by force and risk seeing their properties and structures being demolished by authorities.
“Take notice that you are using or occupying council land illegally, as you do not have either a lease with or permission of the council,” Pfukwa said in a letter that was delivered to scores of churches in Waterfalls, Dzivaresekwa and Kuwadzana on Sunday.
Information gathered by the Daily News yesterday showed that at least 68 churches in Dzivaresekwa, 27 in Kuwadzana and dozens of others in Waterfalls were served with the ultimatum.
However, some of the affected churches have appealed to both the government and the council to accommodate “indigenous churches” that allegedly lacked the financial means to buy stands.
“Indigenous churches whose congregates comprise vendors, maids and the unemployed have no capacity to raise at least $60 000 required to purchase State land.
“We are not defying the council and churches should not be put in the same category with any other law breakers,” a spokesperson of a Dzivaresekwa-based church, Patson Machengete, said.
Machengete, the leader of the Justice and Inheritance Allocation Church, said there was a desperate need for the government to support local churches by regularising their premises.
“Churches provide valuable contributions to communities in the areas of direct economic contributions, social services and community volunteering, education and civic skills training, as well as reduced levels of deviance.
“These benefits positively improve communities in direct and indirect manners, and they enhance political stability and the long-term health of communities.
“But if we are forced off our premises it would be very difficult for us to continue playing this critical role in society,” he said.