a time to pray

Members of the Vapositori religious churches prepare for prayers up a hill in Botlokwa, Limpopo in South Africa.

The church is one of the African Indigenous Churches and is popular among Zimbabwean migrants who worship in open spaces in residential areas like this hill in Dipateng.

‘The Vapostori forms part of the African Instituted Churches, a group of independent Christian churches with their roots in the African continent; hence, on some platforms, they are referred to as indigenous churches.’ [https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5202]

Their presence has caused outrage in some areas with residents calling for the authorities to stop them gathering in parks as attitudes towards migrants in South Africa continue to harden.

A group of Gauteng residents instituted a petition against the worshippers gathering in the city’s suburbian parks.

They were calling on the councils in the City of Johannesburg, City of Tshwane and City of Ekurhuleni to stop the gatherings saying: “Really look at how South Africa’s landscapes are deteriorating and our peace affected. The police move them but after hours they return disregarding and disrespecting the law; immorality coming from a church.”

The petition by Makgoka Lekganyane went on to say: “WE DEMAND THAT THE CITY OF TSHWANE;CITY OF JOHANNESBURG AND EKURHULENI MUNICIPALITY STOP THE GATHERING OF ZIMBABWEAN CHURCH PEOPLE IN WHITE ATTIRE WHO INVADE EVERY PARK IN AND FREE SPACE IN SOUTH AFRICA: BURN SOUTH AFRICA ‘S LANDSCAPES; BURN FIRES EVEN NATIONAL SITES LIKE UNISA. EVERY OPEN SPACE THEY SEE THEY INVADE AND BURN PARKS AND DESTROY THE LOOK OF THE AREA.”

Other communities around the city raised similar concern about Vapostori gatherings, saying in a report by the Bedfordview and Edenvale News, they had to contend with noise and, in some instances, high traffic volumes and damage to facilities.

“Some have also reported that the slaughtering of animals has taken place in certain open areas.”

The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department has warned that public gatherings, including church gatherings in the city’s parks have to be conducted after seeking permission from municipal authorities in line with the city’s by-laws.

On a mid October afternoon in Dipateng, scores of the worshippers, including children, arrived on foot and car. They ascended the hill on foot, with another even taking his bicycle with him.

Their spirited singing reverberated from the hill in the swelteringly hot afternoon. Down in the village people on with their lives as usual, seemingly with no concern about the gathering up the hill in their village.