Crack­ing down on il­le­gal churches

The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page - Amanda Wat­son

Il­le­gal places of wor­ship will no longer be tol­er­ated, says the Joburg Metropoli­tan Po­lice Depart­ment.

The pres­ence of il­le­gal churches, drug-deal­ing churches, un­reg­is­tered and non­com­pli­ant churches and noisy churches would no longer be tol­er­ated in the City of Johannesbu­rg.

Johannesbu­rg Metropoli­tan Po­lice Depart­ment (JMPD) chief David Tembe re­vealed yes­ter­day that noise pol­lu­tion, il­le­gal wa­ter and elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions, the ab­sence of waste man­age­ment and ob­struc­tion of traf­fic were just some of the com­plaints the JMPD had acted on in the raids of 144 churches, which had so far re­sulted in the clo­sure of 16.

The rise in “glee” or “rap­ture” churches in sub­urbs – with ac­com­pa­ny­ing blar­ing speak­ers and clogged streets, among other is­sues, un­til late in the night – has had many subur­ban res­i­dents wish­ing a plague upon them.

Rogue churches aside, there were con­cerns with how JMPD had been con­duct­ing the raids, Bishop Mosa Sono of the Grace Bi­ble Church said.

“We must em­pha­sise that com­pli­ance is of great im­por­tance,” said Sono.

“Is­sues around safety, noise pol­lu­tion, park­ing re­quire­ments and com­pli­ance with build­ing reg­u­la­tions are ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. They def­i­nitely need to be en­forced. We are in to­tal agree­ment and in sup­port of that.”

The prob­lem was, churches which were “le­gal” in the sense of be­ing reg­is­tered en­ti­ties with the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice and the depart­ment of so­cial devel­op­ment, and which were af­fil­i­ated to recog­nised gov­ern­ing bod­ies, had also been swept up in the raids – de­spite be­ing tan­gled in red tape by the Johannesbu­rg mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“In one ex­am­ple, a church bought a site from pri­vate de­vel­op­ers about 10 years ago and started the process of re­zon­ing.

“With the city plans to­day, there are no sites specif­i­cally al­lo­cated for church use. This church was one of those which was closed down,” Sono said, call­ing for a broader con­ver­sa­tion and understand­ing.

To this end, an agree­ment was reached be­tween the var­i­ous church bod­ies and JMPD to help ed­u­cate and as­sist churches to com­ply with city by­laws be­fore sim­ply shut­ting them down.

The process would en­tail ed­u­ca­tion, as­sis­tance in re­solv­ing red tape block­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and then a warn­ing if churches did not step up, fol­lowed by clo­sure un­til they put their houses in or­der.

Pic­ture: Tracy Lee Stark

NO NON­SENSE. Johannesbu­rg Metropoli­tan Po­lice Depart­ment chief David Tembe, right, and Bishop Mosa Sono of Grace Bi­ble church speak to the me­dia yes­ter­day.

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