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