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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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Ngwathe pays Eskom to fix damaged line



BLACKOUT . . . The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading

Ngwathe Local Municipality in the northern Free State has paid R1.1-million to Eskom so it can repair damages to the power line in the area caused by overloading.

Eskom provincial spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg said in a statement the payment was made on Monday morning and work to restore supplies to Parys and Vredefort has started.

“Repairs to the Eskom equipment will now commence,” said Van Rensburg.

“Based on the assessments of the damage, supply to Ngwathe should be restored by midnight tonight,” she added.

The spokesperson however said the initial repairs were focusing on the hot connections and will only be temporary to assist communities.

Another outage will be scheduled to repair the transformer bushings that were also damaged during the overloading incident.

The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading.

“Since 2018, Eskom has warned Ngwathe that their continued exceedance of their Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) – the contracted amount of electricity supplied by Eskom to the Municipality – will eventually result in damage to the Eskom network and that the municipality needs to apply for an upgrade in their NMD.

“In August 2021 and in April 2022, Eskom informed the municipality that any damage to the Eskom network that is caused by the municipality’s negligence, will be at the municipality’s cost.

“The municipality agreed to this condition and, although they were well informed and aware of the risks, they did not take the necessary precautions or made sufficient efforts to upgrade their NMD,” Van Rensburg explained.

Following the incident, Eskom insisted on the municipality making an upfront payment as it is one of the municipalities in the province sitting with a huge debt to the national power utility.

As at end June, Ngwathe’s overdue debt to Eskom totalled R1.89 billion.

Eskom says this debt continues to grow as current accounts are not paid in full.

“Ngwathe’s non-adherence to payment conditions and negligence in protecting the power system, jeopardises Eskom’s financial sustainability as well as the security of supply to the residents of towns such as Parys and Vredefort.

“Supply to Ngwathe will be restored to the capacity as per the contracted NMD.

“Risks of overloading and consequent damage remain, and it is imperative that the municipality invests in upgrading its supply,” according to the power company. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung electricity tariffs up



POWER TARIFFS UP . . . Local power distributor Centlec has hiked electricity charges

Electricity tariffs in Mangaung have gone up by 7.47 percent.

In a statement released on Thursday night, local power distributor Centlec said the increase was due to come into effect at midnight on July 1 following approval by the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa.

The increase will cover the period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

“A guideline increase of 7.47 percent on electricity tariffs for Centlec was therefore approved with effect from the 1st of July 2022 for the 2022/23 financial year,” read part of the brief statement.

It said a more detailed outline of the increases will be announced soon. – Staff Reporter

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CUT students arrested for protesting against exams



DISTURBANCE AT CAMPUS . . . Five students protesting against exams at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein have been arrested

Police have arrested five students from the Central University of Technology (CUT) for public violence after they embarked on an unsanctioned protest against the institution’s decision to have the mid-year exams conducted in person at its two campuses in Bloemfontein and Welkom starting this Thursday.

The exams are set to run until July 20.

The fracas follows an announcement by CUT acting vice-chancellor and principal Professor Alfred Ngowi on Wednesday in which he stated the exams would take place physically at the two campuses as scheduled.

Ngowi said a detailed discussion about online exams at the Welkom campus concluded that it would not be feasible to conduct online exams because circumstances have changed regarding the COVID-19 restrictions and that it was also against the policy of the university.

“CUT is a full-contact institution and not a distance learning institution and therefore does not have the authority to accredit examinations that are not done under CUT’s status as a full-contact institution,” said Ngowin in a recorded video.

Ngowi told the students that academic assessment is one of the important building blocks of their qualifications.

He warned the students against disrupting the exams saying they would face disciplinary action as such action will be illegal.

“The unreliability of the power supply may have unintended disruptive effects,” he said.

“The COVID-19 restrictions which necessitated virtual classes and virtual assessments have all been suspended and the various accrediting bodies to which CUT is affiliated may not accredit online assessments.

“Therefore, we will proceed with physical assessments.

“Management has made all necessary preparations for the smooth running of the mid-year assessments, which have been communicated to all students.

“Therefore, any student who plans to disrupt the physical examinations on our campuses must be aware of the legal and disciplinary consequences.

“In addition, the CUT management has put several measures in place to protect the constitutional rights of all our students who are prepared for and prefer to sit for physical assessments.

“Students must be aware that any disruptions of the planned and scheduled assessments are illegal and unlawful, and students who act outside the law will have to face the consequences of their actions.

“Students further need to note that failing the upcoming academic assessments will directly impact their NSFAS funding status.

“No further funding will be available to NSFAS-funded students who fail the assessments or fail to take the upcoming assessments.”

But, in a statement, members of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) at the university argued that since all assessments had taken place online due to the COVID-19 restrictions, “it is only normal that the exams take place online as well”.

SASCO also argued that some students had not received their allowances from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and it would therefore be impossible for them to write their exams in a physical setting.

But Ngowi addressed the matter earlier in the same video: “As previously communicated through the Student Representative Council, NSFAS-funded students who still have unresolved challenges with their accommodation are encouraged to make written submissions to the relevant faculty deans in that regard.”

Park Road police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said members of Public Order Police Unit arrested five male students for public violence at the CUT’s Bloemfontein campus on Thursday morning.

He said the group of protesting students was warned by the operational commander to disperse within a given time as they were contravening the conditions stipulated in an issued court order but refused to do so.

“The protesting students became violent and started throwing stones and bottles at the police and the security officers,” said Covane.

“The police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The other group ran into King Edward Street and blocked traffic by placing stones on the road.

“Police then arrested the five students with ages ranging from 18 to 22 years.”

The arrested students are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Monday facing charges of public violence and contravening a court order. – Staff Reporter

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