Churches which are conducting services in factory buildings are prone to be losing their places of worship soon to pave way for investors interested in the manufacturing sector, the newly appointed Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi revealed.
Posting on his official Twitter account Deputy Minister Modi tweeted:
“Praise and worship should be done in churches, not factories. Factories are for workers and the manufacturing of goods and services”.
Praise and worship should be done in churches not factories. Factories are for workers and the manufacturing of goods and services.
— Raj Modi (@RModiByoSouth) 10 September 2018
In a follow-up interview with CITE, Modi said the ministry will embark on a long-term plan to revive the industries.
For years now a dozen of popular and growing churches, including the United Family International Church led by Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and Eagle Life Assembly Church led by Prophet Dr Blessing Chiza, have found sanctuary in Bulawayo’s industrial areas, taking advantage of closed companies to set bases.
The warehouses are said to be cheap in rentals compared to buildings in the city centre and can also accommodate large numbers of congregants.
Dr Chiza’s Eagle Life hosts thousands of congregants at an industrial building near Ross Camp.
Another popular church that has also found a home in the industries is United Family International Church along Josiah Chinamano Road and 15th Avenue in Belmont which took over one of the biggest textile companies, Textile Mills, which employed hundreds of workers during its operation, but now it has been converted into a church with a capacity of 3 000 people.
Textile Mills reportedly shut down after it was operating at low capacity owing to lack of funds and had even applied for the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund to no avail.
Nearby is the River of Life Church led by the charismatic Bulawayo Prophet Bothwell Phiri which took over the premises Teak Africa Timber once used. River of Life also has another premise at the Kelvin industrial area.
Other churches running from the city’s industrial areas include the Revelation Church of God at Kelvin industrial area which took over the premises of a wholesaler, Goveya Enterprises and Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG).
Jubilee Restoration Centre Church has also taken over the industrial premises along Josiah Chinamano Road in Belmont industrial area where a local timber processing company, Teak Africa Timber, used to operate.
Another shop operating along 14th Avenue was also converted to a worship place by Cenacle of the Holy Spirit church.
In recent years the business community has condemned the use of business premises by churches in the city, describing the situation as a tragedy that has prevented any initiative to revive industry in Bulawayo.
In 2017, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance director Rev. Useni Sibanda apologised on behalf of churches occupying industries, saying instead of them using former factories for church services, they must focus on working towards reviving them.
Speaking to a local medium, Mr Tendai Petros, an official from Jubilee Restoration Centre Church which operated the industrial premises in Belmont industrial area where a local timber processing company used to operate, said people should not complain that churches were taking over the Bulawayo industry as many other factories were empty.
“This building has been lying idle for a long time and that’s why we rented it. People always complain when something good happens but if we had turned these premises into a nightclub no one was going to complain. Why? It’s a spiritual thing. The reason why we called this Restoration Centre is that we want to restore production in these industries,” he said.
When contacted for comment, the company managing the property, John Pocock & Company, confirmed that they were leasing the premises to a church after the previous company moved out.
“Yes, we are renting out part of the premises to a church. The space was too big for industry and that’s why we had to put a church there. Initially we did not want to put the church there and we discussed this with the owner of the property but the problem is that it was empty for over two years and we had no option but to put anyone available. We have, however, leased the property to the church on a short period because we believe the industry is going to recover soon and re-occupy the premises,” said the management.
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