Zion Christian Church (ZCC) and its leader Barnabas Edward Lekganyane suffered a setback after being ordered not to hold disciplinary hearing against 11 ‘wayward’ members.
The church and its leader lost the first round of their marathon legal battle against the 11 church members. They also have a matter before Justice Mothobi of the Gaborone High Court. The 11 disgruntled members of Tlokweng Branch had taken the church before Lobatse High Court to interdict it against holding a disciplinary hearing against them after they challenged the way things are run in Botswana.
Lobatse High Court Judge Nthomiwa Nthomiwa agreed with the applicants that they have made a case and interdicted the church and its leader and restrained them from holding any disciplinary hearing against them in terms of the Notice to Attend a Disciplinary hearing dated 20th November 2015, pending the outcome of their case before Justice Mothobi.
The applicants also wanted the court to interdict ZCC and Lekganyane from holding such a disciplinary hearing pending the church and its leader listening to and addressing the grievances lodged by the applicants with the church on April 8th 2014 and alternatively, the respondents’ furnishing the applicants with particulars of the charges they are alleged to have committed.
In the main application before Mothobi which has been set for argument on the 29th of this month, the church members are challenging the way the church is governed in Botswana. They argue that ever since 2009 no Annual General Meeting has been held and that the head office in Botswana has no minister as per the constitutional requirement.
They want an order declaring that ZCC and Lekganyane are violating the Constitution by not convening annual general meetings on a yearly basis or at all as provided for by the ZCC Constitution; appointing a Minister since July 2009; appointing the executive Council in accordance with the Constitution; putting in place structures such as the property committee and that the church and its leader should be ordered to correct these anomalies.In his judgement, Justice Nthomiwa dismissed claims raised by the respondents during arguments that the applicants had withdrawn their case. “If an agreement to settle had been reached it could have been confirmed in writing as is customary in this jurisdiction or at least an application could have been made to court for confirmation of the oral settlement agreement. Of further note is that the Constitution of the ZCC does not exclude the right to have grievances heard. The ZCC as a voluntary organisation is also subject to rules of natural justice and the right to be heard is an important right,” he stated.
He also dismissed the point raised by the respondents that the applicants were not entitled to request for further particulars of their offence. He said the request for further particulars was a valid request, which the church and its leader should have addressed to facilitate preparations for the subsequent hearing by the applicants.
According to the history of the case, the matter arises from the decision by the church and its leader communicated to the applicants summoning them to a disciplinary hearing scheduled for the 12th December 2015. The applicants are active members of the ZCC praise and worship group ‘Mokhukhu’. The applicants are said to have on several occasions lodged grievances with the church but with no success. They once filed a case with the court and withdrew it. Soon after withdrawing the case they were served with disciplinary charges dated June 27th 2015. Attorney Uyapo Ndadi represented the aq pplicants while Senior Counsel Soraya Hassim represented Lekganyane and ZCC from the Pretoria Bar.