IN A rare kind of operation, security agencies yesterday raided two churches in Lusaka suspected of being involved in illicit activities.
Chief Registrar of Societies, Kakoma Kanganja, yesterday led a raid on churches in Lusaka’s Chibolya and Kabwata townships suspected of conducting illegal activities.
Over 200 suspected illegal immigrants and refugees without permits were arrested during a combined operation involving police and immigration officers.
Government has since banned the Free Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Kabwata, which has a membership of over 600 comprising Congolese, Rwandans and Burundians because it does not have necessary documentation.
In the Chibolya raid, the International Pentecost Calvary Church was visited at about 10:45 hours by Mr Kanganja and his team.
They faced resistance by church secretary Desire Habimana, who later turned out to be without necessary documents and was among those who were taken to police for further screening.
“My papers are at home in Meanwood and it is far,” Mr Habimana said before being put in a vehicle to take him to Kabwata police station.
The International Pentecost Calvary Church also comprises Rwandans, Burundians and Congolese.
It is led by a Burundian businessman Elie Mazipaka who said he came in the country in 1996.
“You need to respect the church. People are praying and you come to disturb us here. You are scaring our members and you should have notified us before coming here,” Mr Habimana said.
But Mr Kanganja said Government was merely conducting a routine check following reports of sexual activities and abductions happening in some of the churches.
“We just want to screen illegal immigrants. Those who have papers will be let free and those who do not have will come with us,” he said.
Pastor Mazipaka later told journalists that the raid on his church was the work of his enemies.
“Some people are using Government machinery to sort me out. I have been visited by state agents more than 20 times but this is the first time they have come to my church,” he said.
Pastor Mazipaka said there are so many churches run by Rwandans and Burundians yet only his church has been targeted.
Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson Moses Suwali, who was part of the operation, said Government merely wanted to separate illegal immigrants from genuine refugees.
Mr Suwali revealed that Government has information that some churches are being used as fronts for illegal activities, some of which are of security nature.
“We will extend this operation elsewhere. Some undesired elements are hiding in churches,” he said.
Later, scores of congregants without papers were taken to Kabwata Police Station for screening.
The raid was reminiscent of the one by the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) last month, except that this time it was done quietly and not aimed at drug dens but the church.
A pastor of the Word of Life church in Chibolya praised Government for the operation after being cleared.
Rodwell Kaiva said Government now needs to be strict with churches because most of them are being used as conduits of wrongdoing.
“I commend Government for this operation. This will bring sanity and respect for God. A lot of people are abusing the name of God,” Bishop Kaiva said.
Zambia Daily Mail