. . .as MCC vows to remove ‘illegal’ structures
THE Maseru City Council’s (MCC) move to remove church structures mushrooming in villages without council permission has met with strident criticism from church leaders and their congregants who have accused the municipality of “blocking the spread of the gospel”.
MCC spokesperson Lintle Moerane yesterday told the Sunday Express the council closed a church in Maseru East following complaints about noise from residents, adding that they would soon dismantle other illegally-erected structures.
“We went to Maseru East to remove the tent from which the church was operating,” said Ms Moerane.
“We finally removed the structure having first warned the church owner to stop holding his services there and relocate elsewhere.
“However, he did not heed our directive hence our removing the structure.”
She said they had since temporarily relocated the church to Pitso Ground in Stadium Area, which belongs to the municipality, “while we are still planning together where the church should be placed”.
“Our aim is not necessarily to shut down these churches, but to manage where they are located,” said Ms Moerane.
“Maseru town was structured in a British-style format since it was first developed during the colonial era. And because of that, only the three traditional churches; Lesotho Evangelical Church, Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Church of Lesotho had been allocated for.
“However, in the modern era, new churches have mushroomed everywhere and we don’t know where we can place them.”
She said even before the Maseru East residents lodged their complaint, council was mulling moving the churches out of the residential areas because of the incessant complaints about noise.
“Unlike the aforementioned three churches, most of these new churches hold loud services every day of the week disrupting and disturbing residents and other nearby institutions like schools,” said Ms Moerane.
She said the MCC had also written a warning letter to the Jehovah Jire Ministry, which is operating in a tent located in Lower Thamae, near New Millennium English Medium School.
“We have also sent a letter to inform the leadership of that church to start preparing to move from that area because it is not proper for them to operate from there,” Ms Moerane said.
“The church has not only disturbed the residents but also the nearby school. We have since found out that when that church was erected there, there was no arrangement with the school’s management nor with the residents through the village chief, which is what worries us the most.
“We don’t mind churches being erected where there is an agreement with the community.”
However, the move has met with vehement criticism from church leaders and their followers who blasted the municipality for “barring the spread of the gospel and God’s word”.
Jehovah Jire Ministries’ leader Limpho Edward Mathendeleka expressed “disappointment” with the council’s decision.
“The MCC could be right that we are operating from residential sites owned by people who have let it to us so we can spread the word of God,” said Evangelist Mathendeleka.
“We might look like small churches but what is important is that we are spreading the word of God for all Basotho since we are all Christians. “What the MCC is doing is sinful and hindering the spread of gospel. We are meeting together as church leaders to campaign against this unacceptable initiative by the MCC.”
Congregants who spoke to the Sunday Express yesterday also condemned the MCC, arguing that the council was fighting the churches’ mandate to spread the gospel.