Pastors' lavish lifestyles exposed. . . as church leaders fail to agree on rates

A HARARE cleric pricked some of his colleagues’ conscience yesterday when he queried the frenzied push for relaxed payment terms for outstanding rates when some pastors are currently leading lavish lifestyles.

This was during a meeting convened by Harare mayor Herbert Gomba yesterday to chart the way forward following council’s threats to name and shame churches that are not paying rates.
Church leaders were clearly divided on the matter, with a section of them pushing for massive discounts to ease their overheads.
A call was also made to convert some of the open spaces in Harare into places of worship.

But among those who sympathised with council was a representative of the Zimbabwe Pastors Fellowship, Joseph Munemo, who said it was unfair for churches to ask for special concessions when their leaders are living lavishly.

“It is funny how churches want discounts for debts and to be given special rates when purchasing land to build their structures yet the same leaders have seven or eight top-of-the-range cars that they change every time they have a church service,” he said. 
“The same leaders are always on vacation in South Africa and Dubai but want a discount. How much does a plane ticket cost? Why not use that money to clear the arrears?”

Munemo said the extravagance is being displayed by church leaders in public, and wondered what might have happened to their priorities if they are accumulating so much debt to council.
Zimbabwe Amalgamated Council of Churches representative Bishop Mandaza requested that churches be given special concession to clear their arrears.
“Apart from us living in a city whose by-laws are now outdated and need to be revised to (suit) current trends, we are requesting that the city gives us a special favour on paying the outstanding arrears. If they give us a discount of say 60 percent, maybe churches can be able to pay up what they owe council,” Mandaza said.

Mandaza added that by punishing churches with punitive rates, the city fathers risk not recovering anything at all as churches, apart from being not-for-profit making, are currently struggling.
“If you give us the discount and people do not honour it, council will be well within its rights to take appropriate action against the churches,” Mandaza said.
Harare City Council planner Priscilla Charumbira said every jurisdiction has laws that govern it and needed to be followed.
“All that is required is for people to follow the law and pay for the services. 

“With regard to church stands, unfortunately not all open spaces can be turned into churches as they are breathing spaces for residents. Those spaces are not meant to have any structures on them,” Charumbira said.
She said churches must simply follow procedure in order to avoid any unnecessary inconveniences.