City mayor Herman Mashaba made an appearance at the hearings in support of communities which are affected by what he calls “the scourge of illegal churches” that are affecting many people throughout the city.
The residents of North Hills have been battling for months to get a pastor Elijah to stop conducting services in the building. They say their lives are disrupted daily by church music played through loudspeakers. They claim they have been threatened by church-goers if they complain.
This is just one of many complaints Metrowatch receives about illegal churches.
The court on Wednesday ordered the owner of the flat to stop using the premises as a church and further ordered him to reinstate the original walls within the unit, as well as an outside heritage wall which the pastor demolished to create an entrance to his church. The walls were demolished without permission from the body corporate.
If the pastor fails to comply within 30 days, all church equipment will be removed and a warrant of arrest issued for contempt of court.
At this stage, said attorney Zubaida Jooma, acting for the city, it was unclear who the owner, stated in court papers as Selvan Carole Marcelle, is.
“We have been delivering court papers to the unit and they have been accepted by whoever was there. But it has been the pastor who has been lodging opposing documents, so we don’t know what his connection is to the owner.”
At court, Mashaba said he was there to support communities whose lives and property values were being affected.
“I get many, many complaints about illegal churches. We want this to serve as an example. I have declared war against the disruption of people’s lives, and this is the first of many to come.”
Tsepo Matubatuba, who lives in and acts on behalf of Yeoville residents, and who has been active in the fight against this and other illegal churches in the suburb, issued a vote of thanks to the city for the court victory.,
“We want to thank the mayor who recently visited our community and who has committed himself and all his teams to help and protect the law-abiding citizens and communities against unscrupulous law breakers who infringe and violate their rights," he said.
"Thank you for a really well co-ordinated government and civil society joint action to fight this case. This shows how much we need one another in solving these problems that plague our residential areas.
"It was so thrilling and encouraging how people selflessly gave of themselves in making sure that justice is served. It is not yet the end, let us ensure that this plague on the North Hill Mansions is completely stamped out as ordered by the high court.”