The Bulawayo City Council suggests African Indigenous Churches (AIC) use council-operated schools as places of worship. The open-air worship, practiced by such AICs as Vapostori has been criticized for noise pollution and considered a health hazard.

Apostolic sects have converted many of the city’s bushes into places of worship. Bulawayo Mayor Thaba Moyo, who attends Guta raMwari Church, came up with ‘safer’ places for them. “The issue of open-air worshipping is an issue that has been there for some time now. We have got our own schools and we can allow those people to use them, while we wait for clearance from the government to use government schools.”

However the mayor’s offer has been received with skepticism by some members of the Apostolic sects who have pointed out that the mayor’s solution is not practical. “Some of us need to go for prayers almost daily and for most days of the week,” said Chengetai Murandu from Zion Christian Church. “The use of schools will only work during weekends when schools are closed. But what about during the week. It would disrupt our program.”

In recent months, council has allocated most of the churches stands for leasing in an effort to get them out of the bush. However most of these have gone undeveloped as the churches do not have the financial muscle to develop them.

Zvikomborero Apostolic Church and Zion Christian Church were allocated stands in Nkulumane last month and indications are that these stands might be taken over by Seventh-Day Adventists, a more stable community financially. This comes with an outcry by Bulawayo residents that ‘rich’ churches are now occupying industrial space in the city. Just a month ago, Textile Mills premises in Belmont were leased out to the Makandiwa-led United Family International Church.