WCC church of the famous satellite Christian television channel, Blessing TV, has relocated to South Africa with scores of young Batswana.
The church, led by the charismatic Mozambican Pastor Justin, left with mainly youthful worshippers with the promise of five-year work and residents’ permits in South Africa, The Monitor has learnt.
When The Monitor visited the church premises near Tlokweng Teachers College on Friday, there was a flood of activity, with mainly young people carrying luggage, ready to join their pastor at an undisclosed location in South Africa.
Strangely, there seemed to be no transport organised for those relocating; with the carefree enthusiastic locals talking about hitchhiking.
Justin, who built a huge church and accommodation facilities on a contested piece of land that the Tlokweng Land Board has insisted belongs to Government, has not been in the country for three weeks. Church members say he is in South Africa where he is waiting to receive his Botswana worshippers.
While the church seemed to want to go quietly, the neighbourhood rumour mill was last week on overdrive mode with talk of the relocation. A street vendor, who makes brisk business at the church, spoke of whispers of the church relocating to South Africa.
A well-known local pastor, Rev John Philip confirmed being approached by concerned parents wishing to seek assistance to restrain their children from relocating with the church.
Despite the church authorities denying that they are permanently moving, it is evident that something is amiss at the church that is always full of activities on any given day of the week.
The Monitor visited the church on Friday and Saturday and, on both days, there was little church activity and it was quite with few people on sight.
One of the ladies the team met on Saturday revealed that the pastor was away in South Africa and that she was not sure about his coming back.
“The pastor has been away for about three weeks now and the only people that you can talk to are the secretaries. They are in a better position to tell you when the pastor is coming back, but as of now the secretaries too are not available,” she said.
She further revealed that there was not going to be any church service on Sunday, as it would be held in South Africa. But, another church member we met at the building insisted that there would be a church service as normal and denied any impending relocation.
“The church is still here and you can even attend the service on Sunday and see for yourself. I say it is all a lie,” he said. But, The Monitor has in good authority that some of the church members have followed their pastor to SA after he promised them five-year work and residents permits.
However, it appears not all were going for permanent relocation. There was talk of some members just going for last Sunday’s church service and returning, while others are intending to take up Pastor Justin’s offer of permanent jobs.
Attempts to seek clarification from Pastor Justin hit a snag as a call to his mobile phone was met by a male’s voice denying the relocation claim.
The voice that spoke in heavy broken English accent, sounded more like Justin, but claiming to be someone else, suggested instead that the church has a branch in South Africa and that it does not necessarily mean they were moving out for good.
Meanwhile, the Tlokweng Land Board that early this year had to take down a fence erected by WCC church and the Matlapeng family said they were aware of the rumours of relocation, but were in the dark like anybody else.
An official from the Land Board said since the removal of the fence that had enclosed some neighbours and a development road, they had not facilitated any move to forcefully remove the church.
“The land dispute is a long one and it is still to be determined before the courts of law and as the Board right now, we have not served either the church or the family with any court documents so if indeed they are moving it is a move not prompted by us,” said the official.