There is no end in sight for the bitter rivalry between factions of the International Pentecostal Holiness church (IPHC).
The infighting which started in 2016 following the demise of the church leader, Glayton Modise, has so far claimed three lives and the church’s bank accounts in Botswana have since been frozen through court.
In the latest application before Gaborone High court, IPHC, through one of its leaders; Paul Matlhaga, wants an interdict against Modise’s son, Tshepiso Samuel Modise and one of its Botswana priests; Thatayaone Baipusi “from holding, presiding or organizing any meeting, service, gathering or event,” in the name of the church without written mandate of the church’s executive.
Reason for the current application is that in March 2017, Modise visited Serowe in what he called “a visit to find roots”.
According to Matlhaga, while in Serowe, Modise presented himself as the comforter of the church. The comforter is the highest position in church and is regarded as the spiritual leader of the church.
“He visited the Serowe main kgotla and the central district council chambers. He addressed both gatherings and undertook to return, as his family had roots in Serowe. These two platforms are revered as they form the centre of governance of the central district,” Matlhare explained.
His contention was that, by presenting himself as the comforter, this has far reaching implications with regard to the perceptions of the members of the church and the public in general, more so that his visits are largely covered by media.
“His claim to the position of comforter has caused a rift among the members in all the countries where the church has a presence, including Botswana. There have been several violent confrontations between members of the church who support his claim that he has been appointed as comforter as well as those who dispute his appointment. One such unfortunate incident in Soweto, South Africa, one member lost his life. In another such incident in Mabopane, South Africa, two members lost their lives,” Matlhare explained and added that the church has endured several near violent confrontations between the two warring factions in Botswana as well.
IPHC was founded by the late Fredrick Samuel Modise in 1962 who occupied the position of comforter until his demise in 1998.
Before his passing he anointed his son, Glayton Modise who passed on in February 2016.
Since his demise the position of comforter remained vacant as he did not anoint anyone to succeed him.
Meanwhile Modise maintains that it is not the function of the High court of Botswana to determine this issue which is pending in the High court of South Africa.
He further added that a rebel group, led by his late father’s “concubine”, Pearl Tafu, which is challenging his appointment as the new comforter is behind all the troubles which have befallen the church.
“The matter has a long history. Importantly, the rebel faction gained control over the church headquarters at Silo and violently drove my entire family away from the church premises and through a campaign of violence, intimidation and false propaganda gained control over the physical premises and the activities of the church,” Modise explained and added that, “It is the illegitimate leadership under the guise of the IPHC that seized the death of my father, the late comforter, as an opportunity to divide the church by assuming authority and dividing it with the purpose of gaining control of the church.”
The crisp issue before the Gauteng court is the factual determination whether or not Modise was appointed and prepared by his father; the late comforter, to succeed him.
Before the Gaborone High court is a matter of interdiction from presiding over church activities.