Various apostolic sects have taken over many of the city’s open spaces in contravention of the City of Harare’s (CoH) by-laws. Harare News toured a number of spots where these sects conduct their business to check if they meet the standards set by council. Most of the places fall short of the required standards as they do not provide water or proper ablution facilities.
A senior member of the Johane Masowe eChishanu sect, who only identified himself as Madzibaba Enock, defended the Mapositori tradition of worshipping in open spaces. “God told us to worship in the wilderness (Masowe) and so we don’t construct buildings to pray in,” he said, adding that his own sect has complied with the local authority requirements. “For us, the place we use for worshipping meets the standards set because there are toilets and water provided,” said Madzibaba Enock, who worships at the open space near the Delta Beverages manufacturing plant along Seke Road. The venue, known by many as PaCoke Cola, is serviced by toilets and tap water that were supplied by council for commuters at the nearby bus terminus. The worshipers took advantage of this and established their base there. “When you see churches that don’t meet the required standards then they are illegal,” he added.
Madzibaba Hebron is an elder in the nguwo Tsvuku sect which conducts their services at an open space between Rufaro Stadium and Mupedzanhamo clothes market in Mbare. He said that there are more than 30 sects who worship there. He said, “We don’t spend a lot of time here, so we don’t see that it is necessary to pay the council for any services.” At this spot there are no ablution facilities and no provision of water.
Mudzidzi Miriam of Warren Park agreed with Madzibaba Hebron that most of these sects are conducting their business in contravention of council by-laws. “We do not commit ourselves to a permanent spot because most of us are nomadic, save for very huge gatherings,” she said. She added that most Apostolic sects do not carry food to church so they don’t litter the environment and that they rarely cut down trees as they provide shelter and shade. She also claimed that because of political connections most sects cannot be prosecuted by council for not working in line with its by-laws. “Having members who are politicians in one way or another is common among the Apostolic sects and when need be, they protect us,” she said.
Meanwhile Michael Chideme, City of Harare Principal Communication Officer, said that these churches should consult with council before they occupy any open space for their activities. “They should apply and follow our standards which require them to make sure that there are proper sanitary facilities, such as the provision of water and toilets, put in place,” he said. Chideme was not forthcoming on what the Council’s position is on those who do not meet the standards, as well as the price charged for leasing or buying such land. He requested Harare News to email questions to him but he has not yet responded to them.
Some of the apostolic sects that do not worship in buildings include Johane Masowe Jerusalem, nguwo Tsvuku, Johane Marange, Johane Masowe Sabata, Zviratidzo zvevapositori, Vadzidzi, and Zion Yetambo.
These sects convene mass yearly gathering (misangano yegore). Mapostori gatherings have in some instances attracted people from around the country and neighbouring countries, posing the danger of spreading communicable diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, owing to the lack of proper sanitary services.