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SDA factional wars reach High Court

The High Court has ordered warring factions of the Seventh Day Adventist Church to go back to the drawing table to discuss their differences and settle for the middle ground.

This came after the church withdrew an urgent application it brought against three of its pastors – Dr Boitirelo Kabo, Phemelo Seboka, and Othibetse Nelson Simankane.

In their papers, the church accuses the pastors of unlawfully extending their term in office at a conference held from November 25-27th which decision was later reversed by the church on December 4th.

“The respondents are hereby interdicted and restrained from executing any duties purportedly bestowed on them on the 25th and 27th November 2019 because they are not supposed to be in these positions by the reason of the fact that they were not duly and lawfully elected,” the church papers read in part.

Dr Kenaope Kenaope who is the president of the Botswana Union Executive Committee (BUC), a governing body of the SDA said that in 2018 the church engaged the services of Mazars Forensics to conduct audit of the South Botswana Conference an organ of the church.

The audit was conducted for the period of January 1, 2015 to December 2016.

“On the 25th June 2019, at the applicants Special Executive Committee Meeting, it was stated that the report revealed gross negligence and control lapses by the SBC Administration and Treasury Department,” said DrKenaope.

The meeting resolved to report the matter to the police who then responded that they would collect SBC accounting files but there was resistance from the respondents.

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“On account of refusal by respondents to provide the necessary documentation, the Botswana Police Service approached the Magistrates Court seeking an order compelling the SBC to comply accordingly.

In response to the court order, the SBC instituted proceedings against Botswana Police Service to stay the decision of the Magistrates Court pending its review.

The basis of such application is at this point still not understood by the applicant,” Dr Kenaope said in the papers.

Dr Kenaope said that the SBC proceeded to hold meetings in November 2019 where they were elected to another term in office despite legal action instituted by the church.

The applicant as the mother body governing the SBC considered the outcome of this November 2019 Session as illegal and contrary to the SBC constitution and bylaws.

It was raised that the respondents had passed an unconstitutional decision to self-appoint themselves and extend their term in office.

However, in their replying affidavits, the pastors denied any wrongdoing. They further denied that the BUC is the highest decision making body of the church saying its mandate is to give direction and to ensure that the church’s standards are complied with.

“The applicant ought to have pointed out by way of clear averments why it thinks or believes it possesses highest decision-making powers,” they said.

The pastors say that the country is divided into two – South Botswana Conference and North Botswana Conference to ensure that they run the SDA Church in conformity with the ideals and beliefs of the church. They argue that the BUC is a separate entity.

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The pastors further argue that BUC had no competence or jurisdiction to engage Mazars auditors and that the draft report and final report have not been presented to them or before the court.

“We as the executive committee of the SBC have always called upon the BUC to furnish a report of the audit being referred to and the BUC has consistently failed to produce same”.

The pastors argued that the SBC is an autonomous body with sufficient internal control and investigation capacity.

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