ZCC bishop faces arrest

Picture credit: Sydney Seshibedi
Picture credit: Sydney Seshibedi

This story has been amended to add an apology to ZCC leader, see below:

Aggrieved branches of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) in Botswana are heading to the High Court of Botswana to have their leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane arrested and the church sanctioned for contempt of court.

Isaih Sekai of Selibe-Phikwe F005, Scara Naphtalie Gideon of Mahalapye F038, Mbuziwa Toteng of Aerodrome F022, Boyboy Motsilenyane of Phase II CF014 and Emmanuel Mozingwane of Maun F010 claim that the church and Lekganyane have violated an interim order they obtained on July 17 which prevented the church and its Botswana leaders from, among others, merging their branches.

The church wanted to merge the branches and make them use one book to record all its transactions.

But the branches refused and interdicted the church from doing so in the high court sitting in Lobatse.

The order decreed that ZCC and its leaders in the neighbouring country of South Africa must appear in court on November 8 to explain why the temporary order should not be made final.

The court order, seen by Sunday World, reads in part:

"1. That this matter is sufficiently urgent to dispense with the normal rules of the court as to service and procedure.

"2. A rule nisi is hereby issued calling upon the above respondents before this honourable court on the 8th day of November 2017 at 10:30 hrs or soon thereafter as counsel may be heard to show cause why the following order should not be made final:

"Directing that the respondents be restrained from interfering with the duties of the local executives of each of the branches listed...," it reads.

The order also ordered that the stationery taken be returned to the branches and to allow the branches to operate as they did before the intervention.

"Orders herein to operate as interim relief pending investigation of the complaints of the applicants by the Bishop of the Zion Christian Church," reads the order.

The order also ordered the church to pay the legal costs.

The members said the bishop and his disciples violated the court order when he went to Botswana last month and went ahead to merge the branches before the matter could be heard on November 8 as decreed by the court.

The books of their branches, which were confiscated, were not returned as decreed by the order.

ZCC secretary-general Emmanuel Motolla could not be reached for comment.

Speaking to Sunday World Motsilenyane said they have filed an urgent application in the court for Lekganyane to be arrested and the church to be sanctioned for violating the order.

"The matter will be heard on September 21 in the high court sitting in Lobatse."

He referred further enquiries to their spokesman Mafa Modise.

In a statement, Modise accused Lekganyane and the church of undermining the law. He said, instead of respecting the order, the church victimised them by sending a letter to branches in Botswana and ordered the branches to prevent them from going to church.

He said all members of their branches and children were also refused entry at the welcome gate of Moria about a fortnight ago when they went there for the annual September pilgrimage.

"The Zion Christian Church was taken to court when the bishop wanted to merge some of the church branches in Botswana. The court interdict was granted in favour of the aggrieved members.

"1. That this matter is sufficiently urgent to dispense with the normal rules of the court as to service and procedure.

"2. A rule nisi is hereby issued calling upon the above respondents before this honourable court on the 8th day of November 2017 at 10:30 hrs or soon thereafter as counsel may be heard to show cause why the following order should not be made final:

"Directing that the respondents be restrained from interfering with the duties of the local executives of each of the branches listed...," it reads.

The order also ordered that the stationery taken be returned to the branches and to allow the branches to operate as they did before the intervention.

"Orders herein to operate as interim relief pending investigation of the complaints of the applicants by the Bishop of the Zion Christian Church," reads the order.

The order also ordered the church to pay the legal costs.

The members said the bishop and his disciples violated the court order when he went to Botswana last month and went ahead to merge the branches before the matter could be heard on November 8 as decreed by the court.

The books of their branches, which were confiscated, were not returned as decreed by the order.

ZCC secretary-general Emmanuel Motolla could not be reached for comment.

Speaking to Sunday World Motsilenyane said they have filed an urgent application in the court for Lekganyane to be arrested and the church to be sanctioned for violating the order.

"The matter will be heard on September 21 in the high court sitting in Lobatse."

He referred further enquiries to their spokesman Mafa Modise.

In a statement, Modise accused Lekganyane and the church of undermining the law. He said, instead of respecting the order, the church victimised them by sending a letter to branches in Botswana and ordered the branches to prevent them from going to church.

He said all members of their branches and children were also refused entry at the welcome gate of Moria about a fortnight ago when they went there for the annual September pilgrimage.

"The Zion Christian Church was taken to court when the bishop wanted to merge some of the church branches in Botswana. The court interdict was granted in favour of the aggrieved members.

"Shortly after the granting of an interdict the Sunday schools' children undertook a trip to Moria as all Sunday school children from all corners of ZCC were going to Moria. Those Sunday school children from the said church branch which took the bishop to court in Botswana were restricted access to enter Moria, thus they were turned away ... Jesu are lesang bana batleng gonna go bane mmuso wa magodimo ke wa bona. The Zion Christian Church has acted against the words of Jesus Christ against innocent children," he said. 

Apology to ZCC leader

Sunday World retracts its September 17 2017 report which had the front-page headline "ZCC Bishop Faces Arrest", and unreservedly apologises to the Zion Christian Church and its leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane.

The story was wrong in suggesting Lekganyane and the church violated a court order and that the bishop faced arrest.

The story emanated from a civil action by some of the church's members in Botswana, who were aggrieved that their branches were merged into one without their consent.

The five branches had in July successfully obtained an interdict against the church, in which they argued that they didn't want to be merged.

The branches went to court again in August last year and applied for an urgent interdict, claiming that the church violated the interim order by continuing to merge the branches.

They submitted that the respondents in that application be arrested for failure to comply with the July order.

The court had not considered their application when the story was published.

Bishop Lekganyane was not a respondent or a party in the July litigation.

Our headline was misleading, unfair and inaccurate and violated certain sections of the Press Code.

We accept that the inaccuracies in the report have caused damage to the dignity of the bishop.

The appeals panel of the Press Council of SA, chaired by former judge president Bernard Ngoepe, found that Sunday World violated several sections of the Press Code by reporting that:

-  "Aggrieved branches of the Zion Christian Church in Botswana are heading to the High Court of Botswana to have their leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane arrested and the church sanctioned for a contempt of court."

The panel found that this was factually incorrect because the bishop was not even a party to the proceedings;

- "The order decreed that ZCC and its leaders in the neighbouring country of South Africa must appear in court on November 8 to explain why the temporary order should not be made final."

The statement is incorrect as it was not contained in the court order and amounted to a violation of Section 1.1 and 1.2 of the Press Code, which says news shall be presented accurately and without distortion, or misrepresentation.

-  "Speaking to Sunday World, Motsilenyane said they have filed an urgent application in the court for Lekganyane to be arrested and the church to be sanctioned for violating the order."

At the time of going to print, the wishes of the five branches had not been confirmed by any court.

The Sunday World adheres to and is committed to upholding the ethical standards and guidelines set in the Press Code and therefore regrets any breach of the code that emanated from the inaccuracies, misrepresentations and/or distortions in our reports.

*Read the full ruling on www.presscouncil.org.za

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