HARARE City Council has set the stage for a bruising fight with members of the apostolic sects in the city after it recently proposed a raft of stringent by-laws which include a blanket ban on open-air worship, among others.
BY MOSES MATENGA
The council has already turned a popular shrine used by members of the Johane Masowe church along Seke Road into a vending site.
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo had approved the proposed by-law and council this week invited members of the public to buy-in into the idea.
Part of the proposed law read: “No person or persons shall gather in an open space for purposes of worship unless a permit has been issued by the council and the appropriate fee paid to the council, which fee shall be determined by council from time to time.”
Council said open-air worship could only be allowed on sites where there were toilet facilities and potable water.
“Where a person or persons intend to conduct open-air worship, the person or persons shall submit an application through the (environmental health officer) to council. The council may or may not approve such application taking into account the provisions of the Public Health Act and the Environmental Management Act and other council by-laws including but not limited to anti-litter and public health by-laws.”
While most apostolic sects sometimes pray during the evening, the proposed by-laws limit them to conduct their services during the day between 10am and 6pm.
Council added: “Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of these by-laws shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five (5) or fifteen (15) days’ imprisonment or both such fine and imprisonment.
“Where a court convicts any person of an offence in terms of these by-laws, it may order that any expenses incurred by the council in consequence of the contravention shall be paid to the council by the person so convicted. Upon conviction of the person in terms of subsection above, council shall proceed to cancel the permit.”
According to the by-laws, any permit cancelled shall not be renewed until a period of one year has lapsed.