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Rampant open air worship baffles BCC…as MRP continues to raid shrines

Opposition political outfit Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), has been raiding  the shrines to cleanse the city of what it terms alien culture to local traditions and norms.

THE increasing number of apostolic sects conducting open air worship in bushes is worrying Bulawayo City Council (BCC) which has launched a blitz to remove the illegal shrines.

Opposition political outfit Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), has been raiding  the shrines to cleanse the city of what it terms alien culture to local traditions and norms.

According to a latest council report on the research on open air worshippers and the environmental impacts of open air worshipping, BCC housing and community services director Dictor Khumalo reported that open air worshippers are a cause for concern for the council.

“Numerous enforcements and engagements have been made with the churches to no avail. The department then undertook a study to establish the nature and extent of open space worshipping in Bulawayo and the impact of open space worship on the environment and strategies that could be employed in solving open space worshipping,” the report read.

“Two teams of rangers were established, one in the eastern the other in the western. The research was carried out from April 7, 2024 up to May 9, 2024.”

Council said there was complete disregard of provisions  of lands by-laws, Regional, Town and Country Planning Act, and Environmental Management Agency Act, among others.

“The open air worshippers were occupying council land without authority. The land was inaccessible, no potable water source and even sewage reticulation. All the urban requirements for a settlement were not available,” the report read.

“There was land and social invasion. As a result local communities had taken the law into their hands and this led to social disharmony, especially the paraphernalia hanging around the city. These were believed to be the cause of lack of rainfall.”

The report said council was also losing revenue running into thousands of United States dollars or Zimbabwe Gold through unpaid for but occupied land.

“Those who had built some structures, especially Blair toilets had increased chances of disease outbreaks especially during the rainy seasons,” the report added.

“The research gave a snippet of the extent of environmental impact of the open air worshippers. There is room for further research as there can be more on the ground than what has been unravelled so far.”

The churches were encouraged to register in terms of the country’s laws for control purposes by the relevant authorities and compliance through self-regulation.

Council said apostolic churches must be encouraged to apply for stands to establish places of worship, adding that a few had successfully done so in Entumbane and Selborne Park and put up proper structures which shows they are willing to comply with the city by-laws.

Council resolved that the Lands Inspectorate subsection should conduct educational awareness campaigns enlightening apostolic churches and residents on council land management legislation and Environmental Management By-laws.

It also resolved that the Lands Inspectorate subsection should intensify patrols and enforce relevant by-laws on open space worshippers.

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