By Petros Muleya.
VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe. (News Of The South) – ZIMBABWE-APOSTOLIC churches that worship in open space in Victoria Falls have appealed against an order barring them from conducting their services in the Buffer Zone.
The Buffer Zone is a protected stretch of land on either side of the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls-Kazungula Road, between Chinotimba and Mkhosana suburbs.
The Victoria Falls Municipality last month won a court case against the different denominations under the banner of Johanne Masowe and Puritan Apostolic Church resulting in the order by a Victoria Falls magistrate Rangarirai Gakanje.
The order barred the churches from worshipping on the ‘prohibited’ land because they were a nuisance and defiling the environment.
The churches have defied the order and filed an appeal at the High Court in Bulawayo, seeking setting aside of the order until the council ‘puts into place by laws regulating open air worship.’
They are represented by Elvis Mashindi of Mashindi and Associates.
In the appeal, Clement Mukwasi of Puritan Apostolic Church, Dickson Mathe (Johane Masowe Wechishanu Jerusalema) and Malvin Kutsadzura of Johanne Masowe are cited as 1st, 2nd and 3rd applicants with the Victoria Falls Municipality as the respondent.
“The appellants are dissatisfied with the order and wish to appeal. The learned magistrate erred by barring appellants from praying and worshipping without satisfying herself that the nuisance complained about was existent,” reads part of the appeal.
The council had through its lawyers Dube and Company, accused the open air worshippers of violating the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act and the Public Health Act because the piece of land has no toilets.
The churches said their right to freedom of worship had been infringed on.
“The magistrate erred by barring appellants exercise of their constitutional right of freedom of conscience, assembly and association instead of identifying the nuisance and ordering the author of the nuisance to comply with the respondent’s requirements.”
It is the local authority’s contention that the Buffer Zone is not for human occupation and ordered the churches to move to alternative land behind Mosi-oa-Tunya High School.
The churches accuses the magistrate of failing to interpret provisions of the Public Health Act which doesn’t affect open spaces.
“The respondent should have given a notice to remove the nuisance than stop congregants from worshipping. They should relied on by-laws to stop appellants from congregating on undesignated land than rely on the Public Health Act. We pray for an order setting aside the magistrate’s ruling until the respondent puts into place by laws regulating open air worship,” reads the appeal.
Harare and Bulawayo municipalities have also in the past clashed with open air worshippers with the Harare City Council resolving to levy them while the Bulawayo City Council abandoned the fight due to immense resistance.
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