Tents housing churches in Johannesburg, South Africa, were torn down in April by the city’s emergency management services (EMS) and police force, due to non-compliance with safety laws. Community members shouted at city workers as they pulled down the tents in an operation to remove four unsafe church locations, according to the City of Johannesburg Web site.
“The pastors might think that we are cruel or harsh, but they had enough time to make sure that their tents complied with the EMS by-laws,” said Vuyile Tshabangu, an EMS employee. One of the tents pulled down was being balanced with rocks.
In September 2007, the city held a workshop to educate pastors about tent by-laws, including regulations for fire exits and electricity connections. Around 90 pastors attended the workshop. The city is planning a second operation to remove any remaining unsafe tents. Local officials including Lesego Maloka, police officer and town planning inspector, have encouraged pastors to get information about tent safety to ensure their tents are compliant.
“Our doors of communication are open,” Maloka said, “so please come to us and enquire before we come to you and take down your tent.”