Mmegi Online :: The besieged ZCC
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Last Updated
Friday 17 November 2017, 19:00 pm.
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The besieged ZCC

The merging of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) branches in Botswana, which the church’s spiritual leader, the Right Reverend Bishop Barnabas Edward Lekganyane said will help him prepare for the installation of the church minister in the country, has elicited so much row that the warring factions have been incessantly battling it out in the courts of law. At worst, a Botswana ZCC branch was on September 3 sent packing from Moria back to Botswana for defying the merging process. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE and Correspondent HOSIA TSHWARELO follow the story
By Ryder Gabathuse Hosia Tshwarelo Fri 08 Sep 2017, 17:12 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The besieged ZCC








Three key events matter in the life of the Zion Christian Church. These are the Easter holidays, the opening of a new year in September and the Christmas festival.

It is the wish and aspiration of every Zionist, rich or poor to make it to Moria at least once a lifetime. Only affluent members are able to visit the church headquarters with monotonous regularity but many cannot afford this.  A pilgrimage to Moria means everything to the ZCC members just as the Vatican City is to the Roman Catholic Church. The about 15 million-people strong church, located 40 km outside Polokwane, South Africa attracts pilgrims within and from neighboring countries like Botswana. 

This year, September 3, Zionists thronged the city of Moria to mark the commencement of their new year. As expected, pilgrims from Botswana Phase II branch in Gaborone set out to embark on their usual southward trek to join fellow Zionists in the church headquarters in Moria. However, in a bizarre incident, unprecedented in the history of the ZCC, scores of pilgrims from Botswana got the shock of their lives when they presented their letter of credence to Moria gate popularly known as Welcome gate. The church officials accompanied by security personnel confronted and escorted them away from their place of worship.

It was indeed a bitter pill to swallow for Malebogo John (not real name) who was making her maiden appearance to Moria to learn that all the efforts, endurance and sacrifices made to make the journey to the holy land have been in vain. For Zionists being turned away from Moria carries the same pain as being denied entry into the gates of heaven.  Moria is more than a place of worship. It is regarded like a ‘big referral hospital’ designed to deal with problems and ailments of all sorts, which could not be dealt with at the branches. Some had gone to Moria as per the dictates of a spiritual injunction (taela) and could not really come to terms with this unexpected rejection.

Another church member from the Francistown branch witnessed the Phase II branch returning from the Welcome gate in Moria.

“The Phase II bus, mini buses and private vehicles passed our car en route to Moria and suddenly we saw them hitting an bout turn being escorted out of Moria property, which looked very ugly,” said our source who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals. Without mentioning names, she indicated that, it was unfortunate for the ordinary church members that were returned because they were led by pastors that have been banned from the church.

Another source, a former Phase II church member who has since relocated to the Extension 14 branch as part of two branches merger, said those who were returned at the Moria gate have themselves to blame for the fracas.

“Look, the Phase II branch has been hostile because of only three people who are anti merging of the two Gaborone branches collapsed to become one. All the processes were explained to these people but they chose to disrespect all the official processes,” explained the source close to the merger.

Faced with a challenge of the so-called defiant three pastors at Phase II, the church headquarters decided to drop the three pastors for apparently misleading the congregation.

Over and above dropping the three pastors, the church headquarters through its general secretary, Ephraim Mafetsa based in South Africa, issued a circular on July 17 this year to all the church branches in Botswana indicating that pastors Benson Letang, Frankel Sebego and Seager Boitshwarelo have been suspended from performing the church functions and yet they continued defying the church orders.

In the same circular, the trio is also accused of preaching anti-merging gospel. The trio has also gone to court opposing the merger. In one of the church circulars obtained by Mmegi, the church has explained its readiness to meet the trio in court.

Moria has been apparently irked by reports that the suspended trio has been preaching sentiments that the church’s spiritual leader Lekganyane is not above the law but simply the church’s spiritual leader.

It is not uncommon for the church to bar one or two wayward individuals from entering its premises. But it is uncharacteristic of Moria to bar a whole church branch from entering the holy city and when it is forced to do so one can be certain that transgressions of unimaginable propositions could have been committed. Apparently the Phase II branch is being punished for vehemently opposing the proposed merger with the Extension 14 branch also

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in Gaborone.   

Botswana ZCC branches split in the late 1970s when some pastors mooted the idea of severing ties with Moria to establish an independent home-brewed version of ZCC free from Moria influence. This split coincided with the installation of the Lekganyane in 1975 and it is believed leading pastors who had worked closely with Edward Lekganyane (the present Bishop’s father) were opposed to the idea of making the Bishopric hereditary.  Most major villages and towns like Selebi-Phikwe Serowe, Gaborone, Sefhare came to have two branches. One branch seeking to remain under the suzerainty of Moria while the other branch advocated the branches’ establishment of an independent ZCC movement.  Phase II belonged to the former while Extension 14 belonged to the latter. 

This incident surrounding the expulsion of Phase II from Moria is just the tip of the iceberg. It is indicative of a big internal war raging within the church. ZCC is at a war with itself.  Peace is now ironically eluding a church that was formed to promote and champion peace. When marking the opening of the new year on September 3, the Bishop in his sermon acknowledges that the church has derailed from the path laid by his grandfather Engenas Lekganyane and father Edward Lekganyane.

 “Kereke e be ele legae la kgotso le lerato. Le nna ke fihlile ka le ruta ka yona kgotso yela ya mathomo ya Koko Engenas Ie Papa Edward Lekganyane. Efela nnete ke gore bontsi bja lena bo fetogile Masione! Bjale ke ipotsa gore naa go senyegile kae? Le kae lerato la baena? E kae kgotso ya madulammogo? (This church used to be the home of peace and love. Just like my predecessors Engenas and Edward Lekganyane I have also taught you peace. I am wondering where did you go wrong! Where is love? The fact of the matter is that most of Zionists have changed and have lost the original path).

Addressing church members at a special general meeting in Palapye, the first time that Lekganyane convened a meeting of its nature in Botswana, the church’s spiritual leader talked peace and reconciliation.

“I found it necessary to have this meeting to discuss matters concerning the Consensus Building and Mediation Team (CBMT) which I appointed in November, 2016. The main purpose of establishing the CMBT was to facilitate me to appoint a church minister and the executive committee for the church in Botswana,” Lekganyane said last month.

He added that, “ because I have realised that there are factions in the church I assigned the CMBT to mediate between rival factions and make sure that there is peace and unity in the church.” The CBMT has since completed its work and presented its work to Lekganyane in Moria on July 29 this year.

“I am quite happy with their work. They have made recommendations that I am still to consider, some of which I have so far approved for implementation.”

Another contentious issue attributable to the CBMT relates to the reconciliation and mediation between Extension 14 and Phase II rival branches. “The CBMT presided over reconciliation meetings between the two rival factions and the outcome of this mediation process led to a merger of Extension 14 and Phase II branches,” noted Lekganyane who is elated at the process undertaken by the CBMT that led to the establishment of the Gaborone ZCC FO 93 branch.

Lekganyane has also assigned the CBMT to mediate between other factional branches throughout the country. Extended the right to be heard, one of the three remaining pastors at Phase II branch, Sebego proffered ignorance about the embarrassing development as their members were returned from Moria, and he said: “I don’t know anything about that.”

A member of the CBMT, which is chaired by Lewis Malikongwa, Sir Wonder Masebola was very cagey with the truth this week as the news of the returned Botswana ZCC branch is common knowledge in the church.

“If Phase II branch was returned, they were probably returned by Moria and we understand they have already gone to court. Moria is a private area registered as a private property and it depends on how they conducted themselves,” said Masebola without elaborating.

The church’s general secretary, Mafetsa speaking from the church’ headquarters in Moria, South Africa in a telephone interview yesterday was in no mood to talk about the returned members of the Phase II branch.

“ I hear you, but at the moment, I don’t have a comment on the matter pertaining to the members that were returned from Moria gate,” Mafetsa said before hanging up.

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