‘Noisy’ churches drum on

The Grace of God International Church in Voortrekker Road, Parow.

Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg said she has received numerous complaints from residents in her ward about the number of charismatic churches popping up in the area.

Ms Janse van Rensburg said she received complaints from residents who felt that churches operating from the Voortrekker Road CBD contributed to parking-related problems due to the large numbers of church-goers attending and the long opening hours of the churches as well as complaints relating to noise levels.

She said she tried to address residents’ concerns by referring the complaints to the relevant City of Cape Town departments for investigation.

“The traffic department was alerted to attend to any possible traffic violations. Furthermore, complaints related to noise are referred to the environmental health department for investigation. Land use compliance issues are investigated by the relevant department,” she said.

Asked for comment on the number of complaints received, she said: “If there is compliance in terms of all legal and regulatory requirements, a church can operate from the Voortrekker Road CBD. The existence of a church should not have a negative impact on other business ventures if there is compliance – one would ideally like to see a vibrant and flourishing CBD. The concept of Transport Oriented Development (TOD) specifically indicates areas where people can live sustainably close to transport routes,” she said.

The Northern News contacted the Grace of God International Church to gauge Pastor Rodrigo Santos’s reaction to the complaints from residents. He was however, not available and promised to get back to us.

Roger Cannon, chairman of the Parow Community Police Forum (CPF), alerted the Northern News to the issue a fortnight ago. “While taking a drive along Voortrekker Road on a Sunday morning I noticed how many churches are now littering Voortrekker Road. What used to be shop fronts are now churches, mainly run by foreign nationals. I feel, as if, Voortrekker Road is losing its vitality,” he said.

Mr Cannon said Voortrekker Road in Parow used to be a shopping destination. “Now we find no shops but literally shop windows indicating different churches occupying the premises. The shops have all moved to the malls that have been built in the different areas. The shop owners in Voortrekker Road now need to occupy the premises and allow anybody to rent as long as they are receiving income for the premises. I doubt if there is any screening of tenants and the argument also used is that the premises don’t have to be upgraded or cleaned up. Any open space is all that is required,” he said.

Mr Cannon said people living at residential homes close to Voortrekker Road have complained about the excessive music and worship noise that is made at these premises from early in the morning until very late into the night.

“The noise far exceeds the decibels allowed in a residential area. In some instances this occur on a daily basis. There is also the ill discipline of (drivers) parking on the pavements in Voortrekker Road in front of shops. Residents have also complained about people urinating in the side roads as the ablution facilities cannot cope with the number of people attending the church services,” he said.

He said many of the churches are run by foreign nationals. “Yes, most of them are run by foreign nationals, but we have noticed that there are a few churches run by our locals as well. The authorities should apply the by-laws strictly as they do to the locals. Proper applications should be made to council when deviating from intended areas,” he said.

Faizel Petersen, chairman of the Goodwood Ratepayers’ Association, said on Monday October 22 that at a monthly meeting in September he received a complaint from a resident about the number of charismatic churches in the area. “The churches have led to an increase in the volume of vehicles requiring parking along the road, whereby there is already a shortage of parking in general. This results in some church-goers parking on pavements or obstructing some driveways as it is seen to be Sunday and they do not consider the impact on the surrounding residents,” he said.

Mr Petersen said with so many “foreign” origin churches, one does not know whether these are legitimate places of worship as they are not regulated. “ A member complained about the high number of churches ‘popping up’ all along Voortrekker Road, and said there are about 34 such churches that exist along Voortrekker Road. He also expressed concern that they park as they wish, they play loud music, without consideration for those impacted,” he said.

The Northern News asked Mr Petersen to name specific churches that residents complained about. “No specific names of churches were mentioned at the meeting. To my knowledge, most of these churches are run by foreign nationals. Our local churches and mosques are all adhering to guidelines set out by the authorities. All foreign churches should be regulated and their finances must be audited as local funds can be legitimately moved out of South Africa through these churches without being taxed,” he said.

Derek Bock of the VRCID said there is not much change to the aesthetic of Voortrekker Road due to these charismatic churches. “However, these churches host services on a Saturday, Sunday or during the week. They carry on the entire day. We have a lot of residents complaining to the VRCID about the noise coming from these churches. This is a City of Cape Law Enforcement issue and we try and speak to the churches to calm down the noise and take into account that there are residents staying close to them and that on weekends families want to have quiet time which these churches should respect,” he said.

He said residents complain mainly about noise and traffic congestion. “You have a lot of people visiting these churches and they park on the pavements and in front of private residences. We have had incidences where church-goers would park in the driveways of homes, resulting in residents not able to pull their cars out. Most of the churches are in Bellville and Parow CBDs. These churches are there for people coming to live in South Africa, who have resettled here as immigrants. I would say 100% of these churches are run by foreign nationals. Many businesses and homeowners call us to complain about them. The VRCID takes the view that the property owner needs to take full responsibility. They need to make sure that these churches adhere to by-laws; noise; dumping of waste. Does the church comply with safety standards? Do you have 300 to 400 people in a hall that only have one of two entrances. The City should hold the landlord responsible for this. The VRCID is there is help the City with this. We will identify these churches and give names and addresses to the City but they need to enforce their own by-laws.

“Secondly, we believe that many of these churches put up illegal posters advertising their church services. They used to put up these big posters on private property in the Parow and Bellville CBD. In the end, the VRCID has to remove these posters and once again it costs us money. It is put up with glue, and makes it very difficult to remove it and we have to pay people to remove it. Once, again, the City needs to clamp down on these churches,” he said.

He said the City must look at whether churches in Parow and Bellville are zoned correctly. “There must be a zero tolerance approach. Not only for churches but also for clubs and any other business that are not zoned properly. The City should act and close them,” he said.

Goodwood resident Ismail Sayed complained about the number of churches popping up along Voortrekker Road. “These churches are springing up all over the show. I am a member of the Goodwood Islam Society and we have been fighting with the City for the past seven years to have our building renovation plans approved for the Goodwood Street Mosque but they say we must have 30-odd onsite parking bays which is near to impossible. I will put my head on a block and say many of these charismatic churches are not compliant,” he said.

Mr Sayed, who has lived in Fisher Street in Goodwood for the past 20 years, said while driving from Koeberg to Goodwood he counted 23 churches on that stretch. “If you want to put up a church, you need to make provision for parking and these churches don’t have parking. There are two such churches in the area. One is situated on the corner of Hamilton and Voortrekker roads and the other one is situated on the corner of Spencer and Voortrekker roads. If you go to Shoprite on a Sunday it is chaos,”he said.