Kimberley - Local churches have threatened to grab land as their constant pleas for the Sol Plaatje Municipality to allocate them plots have “fallen on deaf ears”.
The Provincial Churches Leaders Association (PCLA), which was previously known as the Galeshewe Pastors Churches Organisation, said that they are unable to get any clarity on the criteria used for the allocation of permanent or temporary sites on which to erect churches.
They said that they have been sent from pillar to post by the municipality. They have also complained that the municipality is giving “foreign” churches and breakaway churches first preference.
“Enough is enough. We are going to start grabbing land,” said the PCLA’s secretary general, pastor David Setilo.
The church leaders said that they even approached the Office of the Premier, asking for intervention, only to be referred back to the municipality.
“The ones that fail us are the same ones who come to campaign in our cramped churches during election time.
“We can point out those churches that got first preferences while we have been holding our church services in backyards for years now,” added Setilo.
“We will only return to the municipality to show them the plots we have grabbed, which we will mark with temporary reference numbers, because that is the only language that the municipality understands.”
According to Setilo, the move to grab vacant land will also help to curb the scourge of illegal dumping.
“We will be relieving the municipality of the burden through safeguarding that space.”
Setilo went on to say that their “dignity” as churches has been stripped as they are unable to host visitors from other provinces due to lack of space.
“We are tired of being cramped in backyards and want to praise the Lord freely. We have to be able to host our conferences before the beginning of April.”
The Sol Plaatje Municipality confirmed that it is aware of the applications by various organisations for land to erect places of worship on.
Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said that the municipality, in consultation with the community and affected parties, had in the past embarked on a consultation process to review the policy regarding the alienation of land for places of worship.
The policy was subsequently approved by the council, which set the new criteria.
“There has been a huge number of applications that need to be considered, while also taking into consideration the quest for land in respect of housing, business and other general purposes,” added Matsie.
According to Matsie, the municipality had in the past made allocations of land for churches with the stipulation that construction be completed within a specified period, which never happened.
Matsie assured the PCLA that all applications are being considered, but added that there is a limited amount of available land.