Abigail Mawonde Herald Reporter
Urban local authorities want some churches to pay commercial rates arguing they were operating like businesses and are generating high revenue. The local authorities under the Zimbabwe Local Government Association Urban inconclusively discussed the matter at an executive committee meeting recently. The issue would be further digested at a meeting of the Zilga executive next month. A source within the Zilga Urban executive said it was time for councils to derive meaningful benefits from the business like operations of some churches.
“What we discussed as urban councils was that we have seen that prime areas and even buildings in our towns have been turned into churches. Even in the industrial areas, they have taken over. We are supposed to get meaningful revenue from the prime areas. If you have turned an industrial area into a church that does not change the element that it is an industrial area”, the source said.
Added the Zilga Urban executive official: “A number of buildings in town are now churches. What is happening there?
“They are making a killing. Are we still in the business of praying or we are manufacturing cash under the banner of worshipping? The thinking is that areas that are supposed to be prime are supposed to generate revenue for council. Let them pay commercial rates.” Zilga Urban held its meeting at the beginning of this month.
It is meeting again next month to finalise on this and other matters. Zilga Urban acting secretary-general Mr Tserayi Machinda confirmed the development.
“The item is going to be discussed further by the Zilga executive committee for us to arrive at a decision. We are meeting in November. We decided we could include that in the local government bill. All churches that are business-like must be taxed by councils (unit tax)”, Mr Machinda said.
Out-going Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denomination chairperson and Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe president Dr Goodwill Shana said funds collected by churches were meant to cater for their activities and it would be unfair to charge them commercial rates or any tax.