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Former Dutch Reformed Church leaders barred from starting splinter group



Staff Reporter

The Free State High Court has ordered three former leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA) to stop establishing a splinter group using particulars of the organisation or claiming to represent it in any way.

In a recent judgement, Deputy Judge President Nobulawo Mbhele ruled that TG Dibane, TJ Moloi and EM Kosa – who are the first, second and third respondents in the matter – should stop all activities relating to a newly formed regional synod which they called the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa Eastern Free State and Lesotho Synod.

The trio was further slapped with a costs order both jointly and severally.

Dibane, Moloi and Kosa are former members of the church’s management team.

Their term of office ended in 2019 and they were not re-elected.

The matter was brought by the DRCA Free State and Lesotho Synod.

The court heard that on March 10, 2020, the respondents met congregants of various churches where the Eastern Free State Synod was established.

The three then wrote a letter to the Free State and General Synod Moderator notifying them of the establishment of the new regional synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, called the Eastern Free State and Lesotho Regional Synod.

The management team wrote back to the newly established regional synod informing them that the holding of meetings with various congregations was illegal and that the establishment of the new regional synod was unlawful and not sanctioned by the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, Free State and Lesotho (the General Synod) as required by the church articles.

An attempt was made to reach a settlement between the management team and the respondents at a meeting of the General Synod held on June 8-10 in Bloemfontein, but everything that was agreed on fell through.

The management team withdrew from a resolution signed by both parties and the respondents went ahead and established the new regional synod.

From thereon, their correspondence with the General Synod and other structures of the church was under the letterhead of the Dutch Reformed Church of Africa, Eastern Free State and Lesotho Synod.

According to the applicant, the respondents continued visiting its congregants telling them that they were now part of the newly formed regional synod.

The management team argued that the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa Free State and Lesotho Synod is responsible for the day-to-day running of the affairs of the congregations within their area of jurisdiction.

The respondents opposed the application saying the applicant does not own copyright on the name of the church and as such cannot prohibit the newly established regional synod from using the letterhead bearing the name of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa.

They argued that the synod was at liberty to divide or join other synods without the consent or approval of the General Synod or the affected regional synod.

The management team argued that the DRCA is governed by its constitution called the Church Order which deals with the powers, duties and obligations of various structures of the church.

Article 31 of the Church Order allows a regional synod to split or join another regional synod.

It confers the powers to establish a new regional synod on the existing regional synod with the permission of the General Synod and affected congregations.

But Justice Mbhele found otherwise.

“It is clear that the process of establishing a new regional synod must be initiated by the affected regional synod,” reads part of Mbhele’s judgment.

“In the current matter the disgruntled members of the congregations falling under the applicant came together to form a new regional synod within the DRCA without the approval of the General Synod.

“The first to third respondents did not comply with the requirements laid down in Article 31 of the Church Order.

“The process was not initiated by the regional synod nor was its formation permitted by the General Synod.”

Mbhele also pointed out that the proposed new regional synod could not enjoy the status of a regional synod if its formation upsets the church order.

“It bears all the characteristics of a splinter group,” she said.

“If it is not formed according to the prescripts of the DRCA it cannot operate within the church, neither can it recruit from the church structures.”

Mbhele then ruled that all three respondents “are prohibited and interdicted from informing congregants and members of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, Free State and Lesotho, that the respondents form part of a newly created regional synod: The Dutch Reformed Church in Africa Eastern Free State Synod and Lesotho.”

The three were also prohibited from using any property belonging to the applicant.

They were further prohibited from using the name and or letterhead of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, in connection with the purported new synod.

The three were ordered to pay the costs of the main application as well as the condonation application jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved.

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Centlec warns cable theft masterminds



STOLEN . . . Part of the copper cable recovered by the police

Power distribution company Centlec has issued a stern warning to people believed to be hired by unknown individuals or syndicates to steal copper cables from the power lines saying it will not allow them to destroy such key infrastructure and put the country’s economy at risk.

“This is war and we will fight it tooth and nail,” said Centlec in a statement.

“We want to send a strong message to the criminals and their handlers that we will not rest until they are behind bars,” added the company, which distributes electricity to Mangaung and surrounding municipalities.

It said it is aware that most of the criminals are just fronts who are sent by kingpins who then process the copper before selling it.

Centlec warned the kingpins that they would soon face the full might of the law.

“Some of the fronts happen to be vulnerable foreign nationals who are being used to steal our cables by their handlers,” said the company.

A joint operation by Centlec and the police in recent weeks has led to several arrests and the recovery of hundreds of kilogrammes of copper cable destined for scrapyards.

In the latest three incidents, a man was arrested in Botshabelo after being found in possession of copper cable believed to have been stolen.

Several people were also arrested following inspections at two scrapyards in Botshabelo where large amounts of copper were found.

At a scrapyard in Bloemfontein, a man was issued with a fine after he was found with copper weighing 150kg which he failed to account for.

Investigations are still underway to ascertain the real owner of the scrapyard for possible arrest.

“We are worried that many of these scrapyards are becoming a haven for criminals and promoting criminality,” said Centlec chief executive officer Malefane Sekoboto. – Staff Reporter

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Jilted lover up for double murder



A 30-year-old man will appear in the Viljoenskroon Magistrates Court this Wednesday facing two charges of murder.

Fezile Dabi district police spokesperson Captain Malebo Khosana said the man was arrested for the double murder after he went to his ex-girlfriend’s house at about 4am on Saturday.

“He suspected that the ex-girlfriend was sleeping with the current boyfriend,” said Malebo in a statement.

“Upon . . . arrival at the ex-girlfriend’s home, he stabbed her to death and hit her son with a hammer on the head,” added the police spokesperson.

The suspect then fled the scene.

He is said to have told the police that thought the little boy was the woman’s current boyfriend.

Paramedics were called to the scene and declared both the 34-year-old mother and her 14-year-old son dead on the scene.

The suspect was later arrested after police were tipped of his whereabouts by community members.

The actual motive for the attack is still being investigated. – Staff Reporter

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Killer of businessman Helepi jailed for life



SLAIN BUSINESSMAN . . . Tavern owner and former footballer Lejoni Alfred Helepi was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein

The man accused of killing Bloemfontein businessman and former Moroka Swallows FC player Lejoni Alfred Helepi in March 2016 has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Free State High Court after being extradited from Lesotho.

Ntsane Togowe, 42, was given an additional 15 years by Judge Pitso Molitsoane on Monday after he was convicted of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Helepi was killed in his bathroom on March 29, 2016 in the robbery which included four other accused persons.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the slain businessman was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein, where he operated a tavern.

The accused took about R40 000 and fled the scene using Helepi’s vehicle.

The vehicle was later found abandoned in Phelindaba.

The high-profile case suffered a major setback in November 2016 when the Bloemfontein Regional Court struck it off the roll after the state failed to secure a trial date at the High Court and finalise investigations “within a reasonable period”.

Togowe and his co-accused, namely Baninzi Gxama Dira Moreenyane, Ntabiseng Clementinah Lempe and Maseboko Alice Majake, had spent about nine months in custody.

Their lawyer, Saintin Seitheisho, successfully argued against further remand saying the state had been given adequate time to finalise their investigations and set a trial date.

The matter was stood down for several hours to allow the state to come back with information on when the case could proceed, but it failed to do so, leaving the presiding officer with no choice but to strike the matter off the court roll and proceed by way of summons.

That decision inadvertently allowed some of the accused to disappear and the police could not find them when the case was supposed resume.

“Togowe handed himself over to the police in 2018, after widespread reports that he was wanted for the murder of Helepi and he was released on bail,” said NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.

Togowe, who is believed to have pulled the trigger on the fateful day, eventually stood trial alone after he was granted bail.

But in October 2018, he mysteriously disappeared from the High Court after the judge briefly adjourned the matter to allow him to deliver judgment in the afternoon.

A warrant was immediately issued for his arrest.

“He allegedly escaped to Lesotho without a passport as it was handed to the investigating officer as part of his bail conditions. He was arrested for robbery in Lesotho on July 27, 2019 and the Hawks, upon knowing his whereabouts, started the process of extraditing him to South Africa. This was successfully done on 8 December 2021,” said Shuping.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Lucky Bontes requested the court to impose harsh punishment on the accused because he failed to show any remorse as he denied being involved in the murder and robbery of the deceased even after his conviction.

“The deceased was killed in the comfort of his own home, after taking a shower and one of the witnesses had to cover his body with a blanket,” said Bontes.

“It was obvious that he was not carrying a weapon but they shot him twice and there was no reason to kill him because they could have just taken whatever they wanted . . .”

Gxama was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in June 2019.

The other three suspects, Moreenyane, Lempe and Majake are still at large.

Police made their first break-through in the matter just a day after the incident when Majake admitted to having planned the robbery with the other four.

Following the arrest of Majake and Lempe, the two women — both employed by Helepi at the time — then assisted the police to find the three men.

Togowe and Gxama are said to have stormed Helepi’s Tavern and demanded cash.

In a well-orchestrated move, the two are said to have held Majake and Lempe hostage in the tavern, yet they part of the robbery scheme.

They went on to demand keys to the safe.

At that point, the court heard, Togowe allegedly went to the bathroom in the house where Helepi was taking a shower and shot him in the upper body.

He collapsed and died on the spot.

The pair then took the cash, Helepi’s gun, three cellphones, house keys and several sets of car keys before fleeing the scene in a bakkie which belonged to the businessman.

They later abandoned it.

Free State Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Navilla Somaru has commended Lesotho police, the Hawks and the prosecutor for their commitment in ensuring that Togowe was brought to book for the murder of Helepi. – Staff Reporter

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