Some top Harare City Council officials are plotting to stop prosperity gospel preacher Emmanuel Makandiwa and his United Family International Church (UFIC) from holding services at the City Sports Centre in Harare claiming that he was monopolising the venue.
In a letter addressed to UFIC, a copy of which is in possession of the Daily News, city authorities have introduced stringent regulations in their lease with the church, a move some council employees view as a bid to push out UFIC at all costs.
Among the issues raised in the letter signed by one M Marara, the acting Director of Housing, are that “No organisation or church should be seen to enjoy some kind of monopoly of use of the facility” and that “no furniture and equipment should be left at the City Sports Centre after any event or function” further stating that “the church should therefore remove all its furniture and equipment currently stored at the City Sports Centre. Contacted for comment, UFIC spokesperson Prime Kufa confirmed the development and said:
“I have been advised by our administrator that there are changes in our leasing terms with the council and we intend to meet with the responsible people soon and come up with a win win situation. We have enjoyed a good working relationship with the City Fathers since 2009 and we see ourselves as partners in community development. “
The bottom line is we need each other and we have to find common ground,” said Kufa who added that UFIC had poured close to $2 million into the council coffers through rentals of the facility which has become the venue of the church’s Harare services. Kufa dismissed claims that the church was monopolising the facility saying their service was their second Sunday at the venue in six weeks, “For the past four weeks or so, we have been holding our services in Chitungwiza because this venue was booked by various organisations, so I don’t understand where the claims of monopoly are coming from.
“We have always been asked to give way to other organisations when they need to use the place and we have obliged and usually when we come back, we take to repairing damages caused, especially during musical shows. I, however, cannot comment much on the letter until we meet the authorities,” he said.
The Daily News had been informed by top council sources that the City Fathers not involved in the issue but there were certain individuals in council who wanted to take up the facility on a long lease and then hire it out again for profits, Said the source: “Do you think, broke as we are, it would make sense for us to tamper with a lease that guarantees us such regular income? There are some of us who want to take over the running of the facility and lease it out for personal gain”, he said.
A UFIC member said they would feel undone by the move if it materialises because the church members took over use of the facility when it had become literally dumped with no activities taking place there and they spruced it up, even renovating the caretaker’s house which was inhabitable at the time and making major renovations to the facility itself.
But it was business as usual for UFIC congregants at the venue on Sunday who seemed unmoved by rumours that their church would be kicked out by the city council. One member who spoke to the Daily News said: “We are too many of us here as you can see and we can’t just be moved like that, unless they want us at Town House. It is here that we are consoled from the pain we suffer from their poor service delivery and it would be a big mistake on their part to try and disturb our services.”
Makandiwa draws huge crowds at the venue on Sundays and Tuesdays when he conducts his services and in the process pouring in thousands of dollars