News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Friday December 15th 2017

Khayelitsha church leaders accept olive branch from the City

Siyabonga Kalipa

Pastors and Imams who head places of worship which were recently torn down by the City of Cape Town because they constituted illegal structures, have accepted an olive branch from the city.

At a meeting between about 50 religious leaders and the city on Friday (March 19), the religious leaders accepted the council’s offer of temporary tents in which their congregations could gather.

Matters came to a head in Khayelitsha earlier this month over the city’s demolition of churches and mosques constructed on council land without the submission of proper building plans and the granting of permission from the city’s building inspectorate.

City community liaison stakeholder manager Clement Mhlanga said a total of 26 places of worship had been demolished by the city since the crackdown started this year.

Last week’s agreement was resolved from meetings between city officials and the Western Cape Christian Ministers Forum (WCCMF), Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC).

City of Cape Town executive Mayor Dan Plato said: “We are going to hire the churches tents until the eighth of April because they can’t rebuild their structures.”
Plato said the city would continue talking to the church leaders until the matter was resolved.

However, he said they could not simply be allowed to move back to their sites as the land was to be put up for sale.

Not all church leaders were entirely happy with the city’s offer of tents, however.

WCCMF chairman Khaya Maseko said: “The municipality is guilty and they know if we were to take this matter to court we would win, which is why they are giving us these tents. The want us to hire these tents so they can make it look as if they are doing us a favour.”

“We have lost our respect and dignity,” said Maseko, before accusing Plato of being Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s “puppet”.

The religious leaders said in the interval between the demolition of their places of worship and the erection of the tents, their congregations had been meeting in church members’ houses.

Some churches had also lost money they used to erect their structures.

United Ethiopian Church of Africa pastor Ngobe Swazi said the congregation had spent about R25 000 on materials to build their church, which had stood on the same site for ten years before being dismantled.
He said the building materials were now being kept in the yard of his house, but he was worried about them being stolen.

Gospel Church of Power of RSA Livingstone Qwaka said his congregation had spent R30 000 on their church.

“The city just came and demolished our church with no notice or anything. We spent R30 000 in buying the material and building the church, it is all going to waste now,” said Qwaka.
He said the cost of hiring a tent from the city – at R1 000 per day – was also too costly.

Tags: Dan Plato, Muslim Judicial Council, South African Council of Churches, Western Cape Christian Ministers Forum

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