BY XOLISANI NCUBE
HARARE mayor Herbert Gomba yesterday summoned church leaders in a bid to recover $10 million owed by various religious institutions in rates and rentals.
Although the council plans to name and shame churches that were not paying their rates and leases amounting to more than $10 million, Gomba pleaded with the clerics to settle their dues or approach the city for a payment plan.
“We have to work together as council and the church. This is your city and you have to have an input into how we run it. The input means you meet your side and us as council doing our best,” Gomba said.
Council also accused churches of noise-making in residential areas and said city by-laws required that new church buildings should be sound proof to avoid interfering with the lives of people living within their vicinity.
But church leaders requested that council offer them an incentive either through a discount or cancelling their debts so that they could start afresh.
“We are ready to pay, but we are saying your worship, may you consider giving us a 40% discount. Most of our churches are struggling. We know that we erred, but as your people, give us a chance to start afresh,” Zimbabwe Amalgamated Churches Council’s George Manongwa said.
“Also look at the amount we are buying the church stands, very exorbitant. The requirements that a church should have $30 000 in the account before they apply for a stand was prohibitive. In fact, let me say this, most indigenous churches are finding it hard to raise such kind of money. Can council
The church leaders also pleaded with council to avail residential stands to them, saying most of the preachers retire from service without homes.
In response, Gomba said he would take up the discount request with his team, but requested that if the proposal was approved by council, churches should settle their bills and also stop occupying open spaces without authority from the city.
Gomba was accompanied by councillors and city officials, led by the director for housing and social amenities, Edmore Nhekairo. Some of the church leaders who attended the meeting include Apostolic Faith Mission faction leader Cossum Chiangwa.