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BULAWAYO councilors are in a quandary on how to deal with Apostolic sect groupings which continue to violate the city’s by-laws, by engaging in open air worship in undesignated areas.

The councillors also seem to be fearful to take these religious groupings head on, fearing a backlash after members of a certain sect in Harare went berserk and beat up anti-riot police details in May last year.

The incident left several police officers and state journalists nursing injuries.

According to the latest council report, the city fathers have registered concern on the continued violation of city by-laws by the white robed religious groups.

The reports said in 2014 “this practice by the Apostolic sects continued unabated and was posing a serious public health threat as the congregants do not have toilets and they foul the surroundings. There is now a need to urgently deal with the issue as open air worship is in violation of a standing Council policy.”

Debating the report at a full council meeting Wednesday, the Councillors fell short of admitting that the local authority has no clue on how to manage the mushrooming of these churches throughout the city.

Councillor Clayton Zana urged council to accommodate open air worshippers by providing them with land to build their own structures.

“As council we should accommodate them by giving them stands to build their own structures. They are part of us and some of them have been doing good things that have benefitted the city,” said Zana.

His proposal was quickly shot down by Cowdray Park councillor Collet Ndlovu, who argued that the city would not cope with the demand for stands.

“The council does provide churches with stands but the challenge is that everyone wants to start a church. Even if we allocate them a stand today, tomorrow some of the members of that church will break away and start their own church. Surely we cannot afford to offer each and every one of them land.

“The best we can do as council is ask them to unite and form one church, since they worship the same God,” said the councillor.

Councilor Silas Chigora chipped in saying some of the churches preferred to worship in the bush.

“We really have to convince these churches to conduct their services in buildings. Some of them want to worship in open spaces that is their way of worshipping their God,” said Councillor Chigora.

Councilor Thobani Ncube cautioned the council to tread carefully when dealing with members of the Apostolic sect as they have proven to be violent in the past.

“We need to be careful when dealing these people considering what happened in Harare when police officers were beaten up by members of the Apostolic sect. We wouldn’t want that to happen to council officials,” said Councillor Ncube.

The local authority has for a long time argued that Apostolic sects who conduct their services in open spaces pose a health threat as they do not have access to ablution facilities and end up relieving themselves in the bush.

Source : New Zimbabwe