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IPHC, Modise widow cross swords over her 'lavish' life

The IPHC headquarters in Zuurbekom, Gauteng, has become a battleground for the soul of the church that has been torn apart since the death of its leader Glayton Modise in 2016.
The IPHC headquarters in Zuurbekom, Gauteng, has become a battleground for the soul of the church that has been torn apart since the death of its leader Glayton Modise in 2016.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Deceased IPHC leader Glayton Modise's second wife Pearl Tafu has hauled her church before court, urgently seeking an order that it continue to cover her R200,000 monthly stipend and other expenses amounting to more than R300,000 for her work and responsibilities in the church, including being a "good role model" to the church's congregation.

Tafu has also demanded that the church pay R600,000 in outstanding bills for her body guards for two months.

Among other expenses that Tafu wants the church to pay for include monthly car instalments and insurance for two of her luxury vehicles - a Range Rover Sport and BMW 7 Series car - as well as legal services, telephone and cellphone bills, maintenance of her mansion at the church's headquarters Silo and R51,000 per month for her staff salaries.

According to court papers filed at the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg, Tafu said these payments were stopped by the church's powerful executive committee after she was accused of supporting and helping her stepson Leonard Modise to seize control of the church.

She said in the papers that she was informed that the church's purse was now being held in trust by celebrity lawyer Zola Majavu's law firm, Majavu Inc, after the church's bank accounts were frozen.

Accordingly, she said, she approached Majavu's law firm to access the money but was told that she would not be paid by the church anymore and that she should address her expenses to Leonard Modise.

"The respondents made the payments ... from the time I married the Comforter [the term the church uses for its head] and continued to do so until October 2018," said Tafu.

However, she said the church breached the tacit agreement in October last year when it unilaterally stopped making payments to her without providing her with any reason.

"I followed the normal protocol for payment to be made and no payments were forthcoming. My service providers also did not receive payment where they usually would. I believe the reason for this is that I have not expressly stated my support for [disputed new leader of the church Mike] Sandlana. I have taken a neutral approach to the issue as to who should be bestowed as the next Comforter," reads Tafu's affidavit.

Tafu said the church was in a position to afford the payments for her expenses as it has more than R1bn in its bank accounts.

She said the church made more than R15m on the weekend of December 16 2018 alone, a sign that money was not a problem for the 3-million strong member church.

"During December 2018, the first respondent earned an amount of R15,223,037.47 for the weekend of 16 December... The second respondents [church executive committee] make payments to its members in the amount of R200,000 as well as paying ancillary expenses."

Tafu said the church had also planned to buy six new cars. The younger wife of the late Modise prayed to the court to rule in her favour, arguing that failure to do so would leave her high and dry.

This, she said, was because since she got married into the church as the Comforter's wife she was not allowed to look for employment outside the church.

"The position which I hold is one that continues for life [unless I decide to leave the church]. Accordingly, I am not able to seek alternate employment or leave the church. The church's work is my calling.

"I am a well-respected role model and public figure and members of the congregation look up to me and require my guidance," she said.

"In the event that the interdict is not granted, it will leave me destitute and unable to perform my functions."

In its answering affidavit the church and its executive committee said that Tafu's claims of death threats do not justify why the court should issue an order against the church to pay for the maintenance of her house, cars, staff salaries and many other expenses.

The church labelled the expenses as exorbitant and clear signs that Tafu was leading an expensive lifestyle at the expense of the church. Tafu's application was well thought out to take advantage of the infighting at the church "in order to procure undeserved benefits for herself at the expense of the church".

"The IPHC rejects the very suggestion that such a tacit agreement exists and refutes the said allegations."

According to an affidavit deposed by the church's deputy chairman of the executive committee, William Kekana, Tafu is seeking "judicial sanction of a practice which the CRL Rights Commission denounced as the commercialisation of churches".

The church said all the monies paid to Tafu were unauthorised payments made by her father Victor Tafu. "They took advantage of the lax financial controls in the church immediately after the passing of its previous Comforter to make several unauthorised payments to the applicant and other persons... "

Kekana also confirmed the church had appointed Michael Sandlana as its new leader.

Morena Motloung of Majavu Inc, the church's lawyers, said: "We do not litigate through media and as such cannot comment, in particular to matters pending before courts."

Tafu and her lawyers did not respond to questions sent.

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