A showdown looms between the Harare City Council and Apostolic sects over plans by the local authority to restrict open air worship to between 10am and 6pm.
Many sects hold all-night prayers as well as other gatherings outside of this timeframe.
The Sunday Mail has established that the Local Government Ministry has approved the new set of by-laws, which also include banning unregistered bicycles from entering the Central Business District and making telecommunications companies pay for underground cables.
The regulations are open for public inspection, scrutiny and consideration.
Under the proposed Control of Worship in Open Spaces By-law, Harare will prohibit worshipping in open spaces without prior council approval and a permit.
Congregants will be required to submit an application through the council’s Department for Environmental Health before conducting open air worship.
The by-law further provides for establishment of toilets and potable water as a pre-condition to attain a permit to use a specific open space.
“Where a person or persons intend to conduct open-air worship, the person or persons shall submit an application through the (environmental health officer) to council.
“The council may or may not approve such application taking into account the provisions of the Public Health Act and the Environmental Management Act and other council by-laws including, but not limited to anti-litter and public health by-laws.”
Harare City Council has started evicting some Apostolic sects that were worshipping in the open space at the corner of Seke and Cripps roads, and have turned the area into a vending site.
The city also wants to ban unregistered bicycles from the CBD, while enforcing existing laws on “relevant documents” to be possessed by public transport operators.
“Relevant documents means a rank disc, vehicle licence, road service permit, route authority, taxi badge or operator licence,” reads part of the Harare Traffic Amendment By-law. “No person travelling upon cycle, goods vehicle, motor-cycle, public service, taxi or any moving vehicle may cling to, attach or hang or suspend on such auto cycle.”
The council wants to collect monthly fees from telecommunications firms with underground cables under the Electronic Communications Facilities 2015 By-law.
Amendments have been made to change the Salisbury (Protection of Lands) 1973 By-laws to Harare (Protection of Marginalised) Lands of 2014 to regulate building and excavating on wetlands, slopes and hills.
The city says the new set of by-laws will help Harare move with global trends and achieve its vision of attaining world class status by 2025.
Most of the country’s local authorities are still bound by colonial by-laws inherited from Rhodesia.
Some of the pre-independence by-laws contain massive flaws that have seen some sports clubs paying just US$1 as annual rentals.
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