EVERY Sunday Bulawayo’s industrial area becomes a hive of activity.
But it is not the drones of machines that dominate, rather it is the ceaseless humming of Pentecostal churches singing.
Bulawayo once had a thriving industry, but churches are now the biggest beneficiaries of infrastructure that was built years ago, as the flight of business continues unabated.
Some of the churches that have taken over buildings of companies in Bulawayo include Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church along Josiah Chinamano Road in Belmont and 15th Avenue.
The church took over a building of one of the city’s biggest textile companies, Textile Mills, which employed hundreds of workers during its operation, but now it has been converted into a church with a capacity of
3 000 people.
Textile Mills shut down after it was operating at low capacity owing to lack of funds and had even applied for the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund to no avail.
Another Pentecostal church, the Revelation Church of God — at Kelvin industrial area in Nkulumane suburb — recently took over the premises of wholesale Goveya Enterprises.
A shop operating along 14th Avenue was converted to a worship place by Cenacle of the Holy Spirit church.
The business community has condemned the use of business premises by churches in the city, describing the situation as a tragedy that has prevented any initiative to revive industry in Bulawayo.
Matabeleland Business Association secretary-general Richard Ndlovu told Southern Eye on Friday that it was not right that property for production was used as place of worship.
“Those buildings are supposed to be places of production and should be revived,” he said.
“If stakeholders work together and set adequate financial structures for the companies, they will be empowered.”
In May this year, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions western region chairman Reason Ngwenya described the economic situation in Bulawayo as a tragedy, with churches taking over vacant industrial premises.
He appealed to all the Members of Parliament to assist with policies which could revive industries in Bulawayo.
In February last year, Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube expressed concern over the turning of factories into houses of worship when the government was trying to revive them.
Ncube said there was obviously a problem when industrial premises were being turned into religious places and indicated he hoped that industries would soon be revived so that such practices would be reversed.
Christian Alliance director Useni Sibanda apologised on behalf of churches occupying industries, saying instead of them using former factories for church services, they must focus on working towards reviving them.