The move by Harare City Council to curb noisy churches, nightclubs and weddings could have not come any sooner, as the number of complaints has been rising steadily in recent months.
Of particular concern has been the noise generated by churches holding all sorts of meetings and revivals in residential areas much to the chagrin of residents.
We are not opposed to religion, but we plead with the churches to be considerate of residents and reduce the noise they make to acceptable levels.
Most churches hold large gatherings during the weekends.
However, this coincides with the times most people would be resting, while schoolchildren will be doing their homework.
One of the key tenets of Zimbabwe’s Constitution is freedom of religion. But by making unbearable noise, these churches will be intruding into the privacy of households and forcing their religious convictions on everyone and this is an affront to the country’s supreme law.
It is imperative that churches learn to co-exist with the communities they operate in, rather than muscle their way into people’s homes by employing megaphones, loudspeakers and amplifiers.
We also plead with all councils countrywide that the issue of noise from churches, nightclubs and bars should be at the uppermost of their minds when they conduct residential zoning.
If churches, nightclubs and concert venues are placed right in the middle of suburbs, this will certainly cause conflict with the residents, and local authorities should ensure this does not happen.
It will be disingenuous for us to accuse churches of making noise when the problem starts in councils, who allocate land to religious groupings without applying their minds on how this would affect communities.
Since time immemorial, churches have been constructed in suburbs, but it is imperative that authorities be heedful of potential consequences of such constructions.
Religious groupings often respond viciously to anything they feel is curtailing their rights to religion, but the issue of reducing noise levels is not meant to restrict how they pray or conduct themselves, but rather it is about being unselfish and showing concern to the communities they operate in.
The same applies with nightclubs; councils should ask themselves how licensing such establishments in residential areas is likely to affect residents.
It is incumbent on local authorities to make sure nightclubs and pubs adhere to strict municipal by-laws like opening and closing times and permitted noise levels.
Councils, countrywide, have been complicit in allowing nightclubs to get away with murder, literally.
Most such nightspots in residential areas are supposed to close at set times, but they are allowed to remain open throughout the night, without any semblance of monitoring and no penalties for breaching by-laws.
As with churches, we are not opposed to nightclubs in residential areas, but what we are asking for is that such establishments stick to the law and we hope this is not too much to ask.
We hope churches and nightclubs, on one hand, and residents and councils, on the other, shall have an open, frank, honest and earnest discussion on this matter and we hope a decision amicable to all sides shall be reached.