Zion Christian Church (ZCC-Naledi) congregants are up in arms, following an announcement that the Phase 2 FO/14 branch and Extension 14 FO/23 branch are going to be merged into one.
A large number of ZCC members expressed disappointment at the way in which the matter was handled, explaining that there seems to be a lot of secrecy surrounding the issue.
“We were never consulted on the issue of branches merging.
We only got to find out later that the issue was discussed by pastors at some meeting held in Palapye,” one of the concerned members said.
A letter from Moria dated April 7, 2017, confirms that the decision was reached in Palapye on March 11, 2017, and the church has accepted the suggestion by pastors and the CBMT team to merge the ZCC branches.
The members said there were no consultations about any plans to merge the two branches, but preparations seem to be at an advanced stage.
Also members are being threatened when they question the decision, and express that they do not subscribe to the conclusion of the two branches merging.
“Both the Phase 2 and Extension 14 branches have members who stay in surrounding areas and are able to attend church regularly because they are able to walk to and fro church.
Depending on where the new plot is going to be found, all the members might find it hard to get to church,” another concerned church member explained.
The church members also expressed disappointment at the election of the Zion Christian Church Consensus Building and Mediation Team (CBMT), which they said was not transparent.
“We don’t understand how the members of the CBMT were selected, and some of them do not attend church on a regular basis,” another concerned member said.
A letter dated May 4, 2017 from the office of ZCC Bishop Barnabas E Lekganyane to ZCC pastors and congregations from both sides concerning church members’ grievances clearly stated that members should stop forwarding their complaints to Moria, and firmly instructed that all concerns should be channelled through the team.
“Re le tsebisa Baruti le Diphuthego ka moka tsa Zion Christian Church mo Botswana gore ka di 18 February 2017 Beng ba Kereke, His Grace The Right Reverend Bishop Dr B. E. Lekganyane Ba boletse phatlalatsa, pele ga lena Baruti le masione gore Ba kgethile (appointed) Zion Christian Church Consensus Building and Mediation Team ka tlase ga boetapele bja Lewis Malikongwa a thuswa ke maloko a sehlopa. (Loosely translated into English, the letter reads, We inform pastors and all ZCC branches in Botswana on February 18, 2017, the owners of the church, His Grace The Right Reverent Bishop Dr B E Lekganyane announced in front of you pastors and ZCC members that appointed Zion Christian Church Consensus Building and Mediation Team under the leadership of Lewis Malikongwa assisted by members of his team),” the letter stated.
A group of concerned church members said they were suspicious that while the letters bore their Bishop’s office stamp, he (bishop) does not know about the letters, and that he was not aware
The issue of merging the branches does not only affect Gaborone. Branches in Mahalapye, Selebi Phikwe and Francistown are also being merged.
“Beng Ba Kereke Ba boletse gore ‘All the 92 branches of the ZCC in Botswana should equally be consulted on any other related church matter, so as to enhance the process of Consensus Building and Mediation.’”
The members said despite the letter clearly stating that members of the church should be consulted, major decisions, which affect members were secretly being taken by a select few, who they say do not seem to have ZCC members’ interests at heart.
Part of the letter threatened members who do not agree with the work done by the CBMT, which the concerned members said raised even more eyebrows.
The letter forbade members from forwarding their complaints to the Bishop’s office in Moria, and even went a step further to stipulate that those who do not agree with the work of the team, which the letter claims was appointed by the Bishop himself, will curse themselves, and bring bad luck into their lives.
“Gomme Ba tswetse pele ka gore ‘Ga ke dika-dike go le hlalosetsa gore, barongwa ba baka fase ga Lewis Malikongwa ba bontshitse lerato, boikgafo, phisegelo, le bopelo-telele kerekeng ya bona yeo elego ya rena, Republiking ya Botswana ka moka. A modimo be le bona, mme re ba rapedisa katlego ya mosomo o.”
“Go a myamisa e bile go kwisa bohloko gobane ka se sebaka go sa na le baruti le dihlophana tseo di lego kgahlanong le mosomo wa CBMT, ba kgonago go ithwala batla mo Motseng mokgwethwa Moria batla bo bolela le go ngongorega ka CBMT, mola ba bangwe ba romela mangwalo go ba ba founa. Ga re tshepe e bile ga re dumele gore le bolela ka CBMT yeo e kgethilwego ke Beng Ba Kereke. Tsebang gore ‘LENTSU LA BENG BA KEREKE KE LA MOYA’ YOO A NYATSAGO LENTSU goba TAELO ya Beng Ba Kereke , a tsebe gore o ipakela madimabe bophelong bja gagwe”
Concerned members’ say this has gone as far as threats being issued against pastors who do not agree and subscribe to the notion of merging the branches, and many other issues causing a rift amongst ZCC members.
“Pastors who question certain decisions, including merging of the branches are threatened that they will be removed from their priesthood and other members are threatened that bad things will happen to them.”
The new Gaborone City Branch will apparently be issued with a new file number.
Lekganyane is expected to be in Gaborone over the weekend for the official opening of Mahlaku Lekganyane Clinic in Mmopane Block 1, which was built by the ZCC in Botswana.
When contacted for comment Malikongwa, who leads the CBMT team, said that issues of the church are just that and not for the papers.