Johannesburg – The High Court in Johannesburg has ordered a Yeoville pastor to stop unlawfully operating his church from a block of flats, the city has said.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the court gave Selvan Crole Marcelle, also known as Pastor Elijah Tenkwee, 30 days to comply with a ruling interdicting him from using the building as a place of worship. He was ordered to remove any equipment used for worshipping, and told to restore the premises to its intended use as residential property.

According to city by-laws, if an owner wanted to use their property as a place of worship, they needed to get permission from the city. News of the church’s illegal operation was brought to the city’s building development management department in November 2016, following complaints by residents.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said in a statement that residents invited him and his development planning MMC, Funzela Ngobeni, to a meeting in March to discuss the church’s contravention of by-laws.

An influx of illegal churches in the suburb had resulted in alterations and additions to buildings, for which approval was never sought. They played loud music into the early hours of the morning, disturbing the peace of residents on weekdays and weekends.

Residents reported being intimidated and threatened when they complained about the churches, which they said devalued their properties. In April, Johannesburg metro police confiscated musical instruments, chairs, and speakers from an illegal church in the suburb, following noise complaints.

Mashaba said a total of R31m had been allocated to train 1500 additional metro police officers to help enforce by-laws. On Wednesday, Mashaba hosted a graduation ceremony for 117 new officers.

The use of newly-revived municipal courts in the inner city would help fast-track land use and building contraventions. Mashaba said that the plan was to revitalise the inner city. Although religious rights had to be promoted and protected, maintaining rule of the law within the city was important.

Source: Court stops illegal church in Yeoville | News24