The City of Joburg has successfully obtained a court order to stop a church, Winners Chapel International, from operating illegally in Rouxville.
The council says this action shows it is serious about taking action against people who run illegal businesses in the city – and that the flouting of by-laws will not be tolerated.
Winners is a church where Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has preached in his capacity as a pastor.
The church started out in a shop in Louis Botha Avenue, but soon expanded illegally, converting outbuildings into extensions.
Noise emanating from music sessions and loudspeakers at the church has disturbed neighbouring residents for the past few years. They have complained bitterly about the noise, which continues into the early hours of the morning, especially during religious holidays.
The church attempted to install sound barriers, but this did not help. Some neighbouring property owners have sold up, at a loss, because they couldn’t take the noise and traffic anymore.
On Sunday mornings and religious holidays, buses and taxis stop illegally along Louis Botha Avenue, often blocking the road, which is a main thoroughfare from Alexandra to the CBD.
Two issues were taken to court by the council and determined residents. The first was an application to close the church down for breaches of the National Planning Act and by-laws such as parking, blocking Louis Botha Avenue, failing to comply with fire regulations, and building without a permit. This related to the conversion of a warehouse to their main church building.
A hearing took place in March last year and an order was given to close the church and demolish the illegal buildings.
The church then applied for rescission of the judgment on the grounds that they had not been present at the hearing because of a mix-up with their legal team.
On September 5, the judgment was rescinded. The matter was then set down for hearing again on October 28. The matter went before Judge AJ Mahalelo, and the city again won the case. A second application related to noise at the church. The City of Joburg took measurements and found it to be above permissible and legal limits.
City of Joburg spokesman Gabu Tugwana said the council was pleased to have secured a judgment against the operations of the church “following the appropriate legal action”.
A process was now under way to serve them with the court order via attorneys. “This process takes a long time and needs the perseverance of residents and officials. But in the end, results of the case have demonstrated that the city is serious about terminating illegal activities and the illegal conversion of buildings,” Tugwana said.
“The city wants to advise residents and all interested groups that it will continue to put pressure on property owners or landlords who alter structures contrary to official guidelines and town planning requirements.”
Roger Chadwick, of the Orange Grove Residents’ Association, said he was delighted by the court order. “We have numerous churches popping up all over this area. We will be using this order to get all illegal business out once and for all. This will send a positive message that these activities will not be tolerated.”
Several attempts by The Star to obtain comment from Winners International were unsuccessful.
However, a person who answered the phone, but who declined to give a name, said: “We are moving.”