Some members of Zion Christian Church (ZCC) in Botswana have this week dragged the church together with its Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane before High Court for breaching the church constitution.
According to court papers seen by Weekend Post, the church members basically seek the court to declare that the church have violated their governing constitution and further to compel them to comply with it.
The church members being Tshiamo Tladi, Khumo Gaorengwe, Mogomotsi Bogosi, Stanley Lejone, Daniel Mathibe, Lesetse Koothawo, Mmusi Moeng, Mmatli Lopale, Lebogang Bose, Faneck Bareki and Tony Joseph contend categorically that whereas the constitution is a supreme governing document binding the church and its members – it is however continuously dishonoured.
“The church members (applicants) have come to court contending that the church is not living up to the dictates of its constitution and set out fully the circumstances that show that the church is wanting, in its compliance with its constitution,” the 11 church members state in the court papers before Justice Michael Mothobi of Gaborone High Court.
For example, they allege that since the constitution was adopted in 2009, there has never been an Annual General Meeting (AGM). They also contend that the church, much against the constitution, has since 2009 failed to appoint a Minister to run and head the church in Botswana.
According to the court papers, the church members also contend that the power to appoint the Executive Council rests with the Minister. However, they assert that since the church has never appointed anyone to this position, then the Executive Council unconstitutionally came to being.
“They further contend that the church is operating without putting in place some of the structures it undertook to have in place. For instance, Clause 27 provides for the Women’s Committee and Clause 28, provides for the Property Committee and these committees are not in place and have never been in place,” they state.
The Applicants have also submitted that as members they are entitled to participate and vote at AGM and in the absence of any such meeting they are consequently deprived of the opportunity to shape the direction of the church.
“The Applicants also contend that they do not know how church monies are used as financial accounts are not presented at any AGM as there is no AGM.”
The 11 church members maintain in court papers that the legal rights infringed vary from denying the members the opportunity to vote at AGMs by not holding any AGM, and Section 2 of the Church’s Constitution shows that the church is a church of members, and not just one person.
According to the ZCC members, the failure to hold AGM’s tempers with the governance of the Church and with the opportunity for the members to input in the shaping of the church’s future. In addition they say it also limits transparency in relation to the Church’s financial standing.
“The failure to appoint a Minister has stagnated the existence of a lawfully appointed Executive Council which is only to be appointed by the Minister. The failure to appoint such a Minister has left unanswered question on the members of the Botswana church, which uncertainty has left the church in a state of crisis. As a result of this, the Church is being run from the outside as no one is clothed with ministerial powers in Botswana.”
According to the papers, in terms of the Clause 13.1 (a) of the church Constitution, the Minister is vested with the power to appoint an Executive Council for running of the Church. The 11 members insist that: “as the Minister has not been appointed, it is unclear who appointed the current Executive Council, hence our submission that the existing Executive Council is not properly in office and has been appointed unconstitutionally.”
Bearing this in mind, they submit that the past decisions made by the current Executive Council be reviewed as they came into office unconstitutionally.
Under the Constitution, they say provision is made for the establishment of certain committees which, to date, have not been created. It is in the interest of the member of the Church that these committees be established in the interest of the growth and maintenance of the Church, they posit.
“We accordingly submit that the ZCC members before court have shown that their rights have been violated and that the reliefs they seek are justiciable. The prejudice suffered as a result of not holding AGMs, appointing a Minister and some structures has also been adequately explained. Eg, no accountability, no clear leadership and no structures in place to deal with fundamental issues affecting the church membership.”
This being said, the members explain that the next logical step would be to seek an order before this Honorable Court that a new Council be appointed. Stemming from this, they also emphasise that another logical step would be to seek an order that all the decisions made by the current Executive Council be subject to review, not by the court but by the church itself.
ZCC failed to file heads of argument to respond and instead wanted to deal with the points of law. The parties agreed to and drafted a consent order while the arguments in the matter were postponed after August since a new case was filed and therefore needed to be attended first.
Church member files new application saying constitution in question is fraud
Church member, and a lawyer has filed a new application stating that the 2009 constitution currently in use by local ZCC – and the subject of the dispute – is just a fraud and was not duly registered at Registrar of Societies.
He stated that the constitutional violation matter does not therefore hold water as it is based on an “illegal constitution.” According to Jost Isaacs in his head of arguments, the 2009 constitution is not valid nor authentic while the 1994 one is the one presently applicable.
The parties will argue the matter of authenticity of the constitution first on 19th August 2016 before the one on its violation.
ZCC was represented by South African Advocates Soraya Skhassim (SC) and Lenette Pillay while attorney Uyapo Ndadi stood in for the other 11 church members.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.