Court of Appeal is today (Friday) scheduled to hear a case in which Zion Christian Church (ZCC) and its leader Bishop Barnabas Edward Lekganyane are appealing against a High Court decision barring them from holding disciplinary hearing against members.
ZCC and its leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane are appealing a decision by Justice Nthomiwa of Lobatse High Court which bars the church from proceeding with a disciplinary hearing against seventeen (17) members of Tlokweng Branch. The 17 disgruntled members of Tlokweng Branch had taken the church to court to interdict it against taking disciplinary hearing against them after they challenged the way things are run in Botswana. Justice Nthomiwa agreed with the church members 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 the Respondents (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 a notice of grounds of appeal filed by Bishop Lekganyane and the church seen by Botswana Guardian they want the decision by Justice Nthomiwa set aside. According to the court papers the High Court erred and or misdirected itself by assuming jurisdiction on a matter involving theological/administrative disputes between church members. It is further argued that the lower court erred by holding that the 11 members (respondents in the appeal case) are entitled to an interdict restraining the church from conducting disciplinary hearing pending the outcome of the case before Justice Mothobi.
“The court a quo (court below) erred and/or misdirected itself by holding that the respondents are entitled to an interdict restraining the Appellants from holding disciplinary proceedings against the Respondents pending the Appellants listening and addressing the grievances lodged by the Respondents on the 8th of April 2014,” reads the court papers.
In his judgement Justice Nthomiwa dismissed claims raised by Lekganyane and the ZCC during arguments that the applicants had withdrew their case. “If an agreement was 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.