Unholy fight

Portia Mlilo
SUSPENDED : Magetse and Phuthego

Partisan Politics divide Tlokweng Branch Dutch Reformed Church

Council of four fires pastor, bars four others from church

Despite its superficial appearance as a paragon of moral virtue, skeletons are tumbling out of the Dutch Reformed church Tlokweng branch exposing the dark side of what is supposed to be a holy institution.

A scandal was exposed when two warring factions, allegedly divided along political lines began to unashamedly jostle for power and control of the house of God.

According to a reliable source within the church, trouble began when a faction of four men perceived to be opposition party sympathisers within the Council of eight elders toppled the senior pastor, John Seleke alleged to be pro ruling Botswana Democratic Party from the church top position and replaced him with Benny Marais.

“There has never been peace in the church since Reverend Seleke’s contract was terminated by some of the Combined Church Council members being Reverend Benny Marais, Tsholofelo Bareetsi, Josiah Zachariah and Deacon Seasebeng Lemogang,” said the source.

Matters however came to a head one Sunday when bold church members questioned the procedure used to remove Seleke since he was hired on an open-ended contract.

During the church service, pastor Bareetsi who is also former Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) top investigator reported the four protesting church members, Oabona Magetse, Boikanyo Phuthego, Modiredi Bitsang and Lennox Kathiana to the police for allegedly disturbing the church service.

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After asking a few questions, the police advised the church to solve their dispute amicably without involving law enforcement.

However, the following Sunday, the quartet that had protested the forcible removal of Seleke were shocked to receive a court order from the high court through Dingake Attorneys interdicting and restraining them from, ‘”disrupting church services and or entering the premises of and or associating themselves with any activity or service pending disciplinary proceedings.”

Speaking in an interview, one of the suspended members, Magetse has revealed that the fight started when Reverend Seleke asked Bareetsi to step down as the church council member after he was questioned and detained by the DIS.

Bareetsi was questioned last year June and detained for a while for allegations of protecting high-profile accused persons threatening national security. He is currently suing the government seeking damages worth P1 million for defamation in a matter that is still pending before court.

“Bareetsi took Pastor Seleka’s advice for him to step down personally and he made sure he fought until he removed Seleka instead. What he did with the other three is a violation of the church constitution. Even Pastor Seleke’s dismissal letter was delivered through Ramodisa Deputy Sheriff office. Marais who has now taken over as Tlokweng branch leader wrote the letter. Clause 18.3 state that: in case any member of the DRCB takes another to a court of law, in matters pertaining to the church, without exhausting all applicable channels of church, he/she can be excommunicated after the case has been thoroughly investigated by the church,” said Magetse

Magetse further emphasized that him and three other suspended colleagues will not rest until justice is served, highlighting that they have already written a letter to the highest office of the church in Mochudi and are waiting guidance.

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He also noted that the bitter fight has divided the congregation, with some of the members signing a petition calling for Bareetsi’s demotion while others simply quit the church.

Meanwhile the faction that has currently gained the control of the house of God has been accused of withdrawing large sums of money from the church coffers, much to the dismay and fury of the other seemingly helpless faction

Efforts to reach Pastor Bareetsi were unsuccessful as his phone rang unanswered.

The matter will be back in court for argument on the September 27th before Judge Makhwe at Lobatse High Court.

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