Police officers in Lusaka yesterday stormed into some churches and stopped prayer services before dispersing congregants of various denominations in a bid to curb the spread of cholera.
Around 09:30 hours, officers entered St Pauls UCZ church in Kabwata area just before the service was concluded and advised the church leadership to release people.
“The reverend was just about to give the benediction when we just saw officers coming in. Some of them went to talk to him in front and announced that the service had been cut short. That’s how we walked out and the church was closed,” narrated a congregant.
And police officers also stopped a Saint Mathias Mulumba Catholic Church mass in Bauleni and various churches in Kanyama Compound owing to the cholera outbreak.
Meanwhile, a check at Northmead Assembly of God, which is led by Government House of Prayer advisory board chairperson Bishop Joshua Banda, found a service in progress whilst other churches opted to stream their Sunday services on Facebook; among them Bread of Life Church and Gospel Envoy.
And in a statement, police spokesperson Esther Mwaata Katongo asked anyone who wanted to hold a gathering to ensure they had written consent from the Ministry of Health.
“The officers both from Defence and security as well as the council should enforce the SI. It is not only the job of police. Being party to the enforcers, we are doing our part also. The SI 79 is very clear. Those who want to go ahead with activities should seek written consent from the Ministry of health. May be some churches did just that,” stated Katongo who also refuted social media reports that congregants were being dispersed with tear gas.
“I am reliably informed that no teargas was used. Congregants were only advised to disperse. They cooperated and dispersed peacefully. Only one person wanted to behave funny but was admonished by his colleagues, the members of the same Church. No problem was encountered and no teargas was discharged. It is just falsehood being peddled using social media.”