RESIDENTS of Ashdown Park, Harare, are up in arms with Heartfelt International Ministries Church led by Apostle Tavonga Vutabwashe whose members they have accused of disturbing their peace.
BY STAFF REPORTER
In an interview with NewsDay this week the residents accused the church members of urinating on their properties.
The residents alleged that the church was allocated a stand in an area designated for residential stands and demanded that its construction be stopped.
However, the church’s spokesperson and broadcaster Admire Taderera said the stand was acquired procedurally, adding that the noise issue would be resolved in a fortnight through installation of sound-proof material inside the buildings.
One of the residents Pearson Mungofa, a former MDC-T MP for Highfields East, said the church was being constructed next to his house, adding that its members were defacating on his hedge.
“The stand belonged to my neighbour who then sold it in order to relocate to South Africa, but we (residents) were not consulted from the beginning about the intention to build a church on a stand meant to be a residential place,” said Mungofa.
“As residents we have complained about the change of land use from residential property to a church and we are still awaiting a response from council,” he said.
Mungofa said the noise created by the public address system used by the church was deafening, but what disturbed him most were the discharges of urine by church goers on his hedge.
“They use only two portable toilets for a congregation of more than 2 000 people and these are not enough for them. As a result some end up urinating on the hedge which creates the boundary between the church and my stand. This can create a health hazard. Their noise is so much that people who live as far as Westgate can hear it too and it disturbs neighbours and children who want to study,” Mungofa said.
Another resident Kupara Chanakira alleged the municipality did not consult the residents when they sold the stand to the church.
Harare West MP Jessie Majome confirmed the stand-off.
“On Saturday, January 11, I convened an urgent community meeting with residents of Ashdown Park to discuss the arrival of Heartfelt Church in Ward 16 suburb.
Residents are complaining about the noise during services, their makeshift toilets and the sharp increase in traffic along Ashdown Drive. Residents wanted to know from council how Heartfelt Ministries was able to change land use from residential to church use without their knowledge and consent as they would never have given that consent. They also wanted to know if the church had been awarded an Environment Assessment Certificate from the Environmental Management Agency,” said Majome.
Deputy Local Government minister Joel Biggie Matiza said he was aware of the issue.
“Churches cannot be built on residential stands. What the residents can do is to go to the council planning department to see if there was proper change of land use. If land use is changed it should be done through consultation with residents,” Matiza said.
But Taderera defended his church saying: “Everything was done above board and we can never do things clandestinely as a church. The church is also part of the community and in fact we are also involved in helping the community because Harare has water problems and the church has two boreholes where all members of the community are allowed to draw water from.
“At the moment I can understand the neighbours’ concerns about the noise. The issue is we were operating from an incomplete structure with all sides of the wall incomplete, but we have since purchased sound proof material and expect to solve the issue in a fortnight. The allegations on toilets are not true because there are two toilet structures, but inside those structures there are more toilets.”