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Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Set To Demolish Dozens Of Churches

About 13 churches that had occupied the land three months ago in Khayelitsha, Kariega, will be evicted soon from the open vacant land by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

These church structures, next to busy Mondile Road, worship congregants from different denominations and mostly on Sundays.

However, the municipality’s land invasion unit officials have confirmed to JHR that they are going ahead with wiping all these church structures off the land and deem them as illegal invaders.

Church leaders, on the other hand, vow to fight back for their rights for land use in ward 44, saying the land was an open space that was dirty.

Bishop Mthuthuzeli John Vena, Chairperson of African Union of Independent Churches and Ministries, told JHR that as churches, they are caught in the middle of political mind games.

“We had been given the land by the late mayor Mongameli Bobani to use it but now that there’s a new mayor, there are new changes.

“We also convened a meeting with ward 44 Councillor Nomsa Booi and she stated in black and white that we can keep the land temporarily by worshipping inside these church structures which we had built until the municipality makes a decision about that land

We regard the Councillor who gave us the land as a deployee of the municipality, using a municipal letterhead after we had convened a meeting with her and the late mayor Bobani.

Now the decision of the Councillor and the then-mayor is deemed illegal.”

Bishop Vena said government is not treating churches equally and that some congregations are struggling to obtain a piece of land to worship while others are allocated plenty of lands.

“Most churches that came by ships and boats are the only ones that are being recognized in this country. They even have five or more of the same churches in one ward.

But we as born again congregations are being deprived of our right to effective land use, threatened with eviction all the time when there’s a new political leader.

We are ready though. If they are going to demolish our churches, they will be in for a surprise this time around!” said Bishop Vena.

He said the congregations are not looking for fancy land and are prepared to clean up even illegal dumpsites if they can be permitted to use.

“We will fight for every open piece of land given to us,” said Bishop Vena.

Meanwhile, the municipality’s Human Settlement directorate is aware of the invasion in question, says municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki.

He said the land invaders (church leaders) were served with a verbal warning to demolish their structures as the invasions are not allowed.

“When the invaders were served verbal warning, they indicated that they were allocated the land by the ward Councillor. They had proof which they showed the officials. The ward Councillor was called and she confirmed the allocation of sites to invaders.

“The municipality did not give the land to churches. It was occupied illegally…. hence this is regarded as land invasions.

“It should be noted that the council resolution of 30 April 2021, does not recognize any structures that came up after the day of the resolution. There is therefore a legal process underway on all such invasions, the area in question included.” said Mniki.

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

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