Pastor loses dog collar

Sipho Masombuka

A pastor of a South African branch of the international Christian Evangelist Church of Assemblies has become the first casualty of the ongoing dispute following the sale of a multi-million rand church property to settle a huge municipal debt.

Chairman of the local executive council of the church, Pastor John Samuchimba, was on Saturday kicked out of the church and also had his ordination revoked by the national executive council (NEC).

The church's NEC recently sold the property amid protestations from the local executive council.

Samuchimba's dismissal came just a day after Sowetan reported that the NEC in May took a resolution to sell the convention centre and church hall at 1 Premier Street in Olifantsfontein to settle a debt amounting to R600000 owed to the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality.

The church's local executive council saw red after receiving a letter from their national counterparts informing them of the resolution.

They immediately went to court to stop the sale.

The local council argued that the sale was unlawful because it breached the constitution governing church property.

The application for the interdict was withdrawn because the property had already been sold to 1 Premier Street Close Corporation for R2,5million.

The company is jointly owned by a former pastor of the church, Joe Chetty, who resigned from the church in 2005.

Chetty, now leader of the Christian Ministries International, confirmed that his company bought the building and resold it at an auction last Friday.

Local council secretary Moses Ratsaka said the building was bought for the local church by the church's American branch in 2001 and "according to the church's constitution, assets should be transferred to educational, religious or charitable institutions on the dissolution of the church".

Samuchimba was sacked in absentia and only learnt of the decision from Sowetan yesterday.

"I was never informed of that decision and I am not going to accept it because these guys [national executive council] are a bunch of thieves who are in the church for personal gain.

"They do not have any regard for God's work. I do not accept the [national] council itself anyway because it was fraudulently installed," said Samuchimba.

He said they would lay a charge of fraud to challenge the legality of the sale .

President of the NEC, Stanley Moodley, said Samuchimba was fired from the church because "he is a liar and brought the church into disrepute".

He was called to the meeting in Durban but he did not come so the decision was taken in his absence, Moodley said .

However, Moodley would not say when or how Samuchimba was notified of the meeting.