The religious fraternity in Nelson Mandela Bay wants land to build places of worship and it wants assurances from the municipality that churches built on its land illegally will not be demolished.
They made their voices known at a gathering on Friday with mayor Athol Trollip and human settlements political head Nqaba Bhanga.
The meeting with representatives of religious organisations was held at the Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton.
Trollip spoke about the significance of religion in building moral fortitude within society.
He acknowledged the need for access to places of worship but raised concerns about a rapid increase in the number of churches.
“For example, we have 18 church sites at Motherwell and a long list of people waiting for their applications [to be approved].
“But we don’t have very important other civic facilities available in that community, so it’s always going to be a balancing act,” Trollip said.
He promised religious leaders every application would be given equal consideration.
Bhanga told the religious group the metro wanted to sell them the land at 1% of the total land value. He also cautioned against churches that were building structures illegally on municipal land.
“At Wells Estate, for example, we have about 80 illegal church structures. “At Joe Slovo, though it is so small, there are about 150 illegal church structures and 245 in Motherwell,” Bhanga said.
AK Baboo, who represented the Islamic community, said Port Elizabeth only had 14 mosques and about 90% of them were built on private property, rezoned for mosques.
“There is not a single area in Port Elizabeth that has been allocated for mosques,” he said.
The Reverend Jingela Boya, of the United Ethiopian Church of SA, said there was plenty of land not being used and the municipality should consider giving it to churches.
The municipality’s acting director for properties, Dawie Welgnoed, invited the owners of existing legally built churches to consult his office for title deeds.
A committee is to be set up to look at the issue. Bhanga cautioned the applicants that they were not all guaranteed land.