LOBATSE: Divine intervention has failed and Anglicans have now resorted to the High Court to resolve their differences.
Justice Key Dingake spent the whole of Friday morning listening to a case in which seven priests are challenging the Anglican Church Diocese of Botswana and Bishop Trevor Mwamba for revoking their licences last year.
The pastors are from the Lobatse, Molepolole, Mahalapye, Broadhurst, Mogoditshane, Selebi-Phikwe and Tonota congregations. They are Father Patrick Ncaagae, Father Essau Mosime (deceased), Father Paul Beleme, Father Botshabelo Beleme, Father Mooketsi Mokgatle, Father Aubrey Molatlhwe, and Father Moreri Leteemane.
They dragged the Church and Bishop Mwamba to the High Court on December 21 last year challenging their suspensions. The court ruled that the matter was not urgent and it was set for last month only to be postponed to last Friday.
Before the case commenced, Justice Dingake expressed his optimism that the parties could still resolve their differences amicably especially that they are God's people. But the attorneys for the two parties - Kgalalelo Monthe and Vigil Vegeer - agreed to allow the court to find a solution to their clients' differences.
Monthe argued that the Anglican Church is an exempt society regulated by the Society's Act of Botswana, which calls upon all societies to file their constitution, rules, and regulations to the Registrar of Societies to be able to operate. He said an unknown person has tampered with the rules and regulations of the church and had failed to notify
Monthe further contended that Bishop Mwamba acted unlawfully by revoking the licences of the seven pastors and at the same time denying them their livelihood. Although some of the pastors were working on part-time basis, he argued that the relationship between them and the church was that of 'employer and employee'. He cited the salaries, the sick leave, and the pension as proof that the parties had an employer-employee relationship. He called for the pastors to be given back their licences and be reinstated since they were unfairly dismissed.
However, Vegeer argued that church canons empower a bishop to revoke the licence of a pastor and that the bishop acted in accordance with such canons. "We maintain that the second respondent (bishop) acted in accordance with the laws and that the revocations must stand," he said.
The canons empower the bishop to revoke a licence of a pastor. The pastor can challenge the revocation of the licence to a commission comprising Bishop Mwamba, two pastors he had nominated, one pastor nominated by the complainants, and a layperson.