Following an application by some Zion Christian Church (ZCC) members in Botswana challenging the church’s disregard and violation of its own constitution, another member who sits on the church’s lawyers’ panel launched a fresh application this week challenging that the 2009 Botswana constitution is fraudulent.
“The applicants have instituted legal proceedings against ZCC relying on the 2009 constitution that is not operational or not in use and as such the said constitution does not govern the affairs of ZCC in Botswana. I will further pray for the Honourable court to declare the said constitution null and void and of no force and effect,” Jost Sinvula Isaac who is a member and lawyer of ZCC declared in court papers the Weekend Post is in possession of.
Prior, 11 members of the church being Tshiamo Tladi, Khumo Gaorengwe, Mogomotsi Bogosi, Stanley Lejone, Daniel Mathibe, Lesetse Othamo, Mmusi Moeng, Mmatli Lopale, Lebogang Bose, Faneck Bareki and Tony Joseph last week dragged the church together with its Bishop Dr. Barnabas Edward Lekganyane to court saying the ZCC local branch is flouting on its constitution of 2009 – which is currently the subject of the “storm”.
Isaac, who sits in the ZCC attorneys’ panel instituted a fresh application this week as a member of the church and argued that the submission of the 2009 constitution by ZCC to the Registrar of Societies was not necessary as the church had a South African church constitution that was in use since 1994.
He said: “it is my humble submission that the 1994 constitution is the lawful and operational constitution of the ZCC church in Botswana as it has never been repealed or invalidated by any lawful process.”
Accordingly, he emphasized that the “2009 Botswana constitution is illegal, unlawful and a nullity in law and of no force and effect”.
When supporting his arguments the lawyer said there are new facts which he intends to bring before court, which have not been brought forth by any of the parties in the 11 members versus ZCC, Bishop Lekganyane, pending before the court. He added that he discovered the facts after thorough research, making inquiries and perusing the church file at the Registrar of Societies.
Sometimes in the early 1990’s, he explained, the church applied for registration of its constitution and “exemption” from registration under the Societies Act. The exemption was then approved and they were issued with an exemption certificate. In applying for exemption, he said the church filed its constitution from South Africa, which was received by the Registrar of Societies on the 5th July 1994.
“The church was thus confirmed as a society exempted from registration in terms of the Act and that it was headquartered and controlled outside the country (South Africa), with a universal constitution that applied to all its members and was registered accordingly.”
A perusal of the church file at the Registrar of Societies’ office reveals that sometimes there was a misconception on the part of officials of the church as to its registration status in Botswana.
Indications are that at some stage the church engaged the Office of the President (OP) to have the church exempted from registration, when in fact the church was ‘already’ exempted from registration.
Therefore, the ZCC member stated further that it seems that the confusion that resulted in the registration of the 2009 constitution began with a public announcement that was made by the Registrar of Societies in 2008.
In terms of that notice, all churches which were registered using the constitutions of their ‘mother churches based outside the country’ were now required to file ‘local’ constitutions and a deadline was set for that purpose.
“This request was not made in terms of any provisions of the Societies Act. I must add that this public announcement was not addressed to the ZCC. While the legal propriety of this notice was itself questionable, it was nonetheless not necessary for the church to concern itself with the notice as it was an exempted society which had a constitution in place.”
Other churches that are exempted such as the Roman Catholic Church did not concern themselves with the notice and they did not file local constitutions.
In the end, the ZCC lawyer said a local constitution was developed and on June 2009, the 2009 constitution was submitted to the Registrar of Societies.
He pointed out that the registration status of the church is a matter that has not been ventilated at all by all the parties to the main application (11 ZCC members) “yet it is at the centre of the controversy in these proceedings”.
According to Isaac, “when this 2009 constitution was submitted, what was overlooked is the fact that the church had a constitution that was in use and further that it was exempted from registration, and that under no circumstances could the church be required to submit local constitution.”
He added that the filing of the 2009 constitution therefore would have resulted in the Exemption of the church being rescinded or cancelled since the preamble of the said constitution states that the church is constituted in terms of Section 5 of the Societies Act.
“When the 2009 constitution was filed with the Registrar of Societies, the church awaited response from the Registrar’s office in relation to the registration of such constitution but to date there is no such response and my understanding is that in the absence of any meaningful response the said constitution was never formally registered for it to be effective.”
The ZCC member also expressed that he is greatly aggrieved by the 2009 constitution because it creates a different ZCC than the church itself. “The church will effectively have two parallel seemingly distinct constitutions since the 2009 constitution did not repeal the 1994 constitution nor was it registered.”
The constitution does not make any reference to the status of the church as an exempted society, suggesting that it was submitted under a misapprehension of facts as to the registration status of the church, he highlighted.
In the 2009 constitution, it is stated that: “the headquarters of the church is said to be Lot 20462, Gaborone. This has never been the headquarters of the church. To the best of my knowledge, the headquarters of the church is Zion city Moria in Limpopo Province of South Africa,” the lawyer clarified.
The Executive Council is entrusted with powers that have hitherto been the preserve of the Church Council, and the 2009 constitution as it is if adopted will hinder the smooth running of the church in Botswana, he highlighted.
“I therefore intend to raise arguments questioning the validity of this 2009 constitution. The proceedings will have to involve the Registrar of Societies, through the Attorney General.”
“I have raised these issues with the church. In particular I have raised the issue of invalidity of the 2009 constitution with the General Secretary of the church as well as lawyers panel of the church,” he added.
However, Isaac said his pleas for the church to raise these issues have not been headed to. “I understand this to be because the members of the lawyers’ panel directly responsible for this case hold views that are different from mine,” he stated. “To my understanding the church has therefore not been advised to raise these issues in the manner I seek to raise them. I respect this divergent of views, and now ask this court to give me a hearing.”
“As a member of the church, which is a very big international church, and further as an official of the church where the applicants (11 members) in the main action worship, I have an interest in ensuring that the church is governed properly and I consider the raising of these issues to be my responsibility and duty.”
Going forward, he observed that a decision on this matter will also clear any confusion to the registration status of ZCC, the constitution that is in use and the responsibilities of the church in terms of the Societies Act.
Isaac’s new application citing the Botswana church constitution as “a fraud” will be argued still before Justice Michael Mothobi on 19th August 2016 and it will determine whether the previous matter on violation of the local church constitution falls off or not.
In the 11 members’ case, ZCC was represented by Advocates Soraya Skhassim (SC) and Lenette Pillay from South Africa and Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm in Botswana sat in for the aggrieved 11 ZCC members while in the fresh application due in August, attorney Jost Sinvula Isaac represented himself.
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.