Harare City Council has started investigating churches using their premises for commercial purposes with a view to arresting the culprits.

Council’s Education, Health, Housing and Community Services committee said it would take action on all offending churches.

The investigations follow revelations that several churches around the capital city are being hired out as crèches, schools and colleges and in some instances even shops, contrary to council by-laws.

“Investigations are underway, but I don’t have the names of the churches and we have leases for churches, but if it’s a church and it is engaged in commercial business, it becomes a crime. Church and commercial leases are different and they have to open up if they want to do business, not hiding under the name of churches,” said Charles Nyatsuro, chairman of the committee.

“Most of the offending churches are in the high-density areas, and a team is investigating them.”

Churches found engaging in commercial activities are likely to be referred to the Environmental Management committee for necessary action.

“Church buildings must be used for church related-business only. And if they wish to engage in any other business, they should comply with the requirements of the Director of Health Services and Director of Urban Planning Services for appropriate rating,” Nyatsuro said.