ZCC leader accused of forcing money racket on church members
Zion Christian Church (ZCC) leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane and his disciples are accused of imposing burial and accident insurance on church members and making money off them.
The accusations were made by a senior church member and legal eagle, advocate Jerry Koma in a letter to Lekganyane and ZCC lawyers Webber Wentzel in May.
Koma’s letter was in response to court papers filed in the Pretoria High Court by Lekganyane and his son Edward, among others, in which they are asking the court to amend the terms and condition of the insurance scheme, Kganya Benefit Fund Trust, which is underwritten by Sanlam Developing Markets.
The members, in their capacity as beneficiaries of the trust, have been paying for the scheme through group policies, and the payments were recorded in the booklet titled Pukwana Ya Kganya, which they received from their branch leaders.
The church said because of the changes in insurance laws, Sanlam was unable to continue with the group policies, hence they needed them changed and those who meet the terms and conditions of the amended ones will still enjoy the benefits.
They invited all ZCC members who did not approve of the amendment to file a motion of intention to oppose the application, which will be heard on August 3.
In the letter, which we have seen, Koma said the insurance scheme was a money-making racket designed to enrich Lekganyane and his son, and that it flies in the face of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural (CRL) Commission’s plea that churches should refrain from using their congregants to enrich themselves.
“Save to state that Kganya Insurance is a business, which was not supposed to be imposed in a church such as ZCC, which has majority of poor and vulnerable members… explain further as to why our bishop has established this business in his church while the CRL Commission has warned all religious leaders to stop and/or refrain from the idea of using their congregations to do business, taking advantage of their belief in them,” read the letter.
Koma, a former magistrate in Mpumalanga, also questioned why the scheme forced married members to have separate Kganya books instead of one.
Koma said church members Phumzile Mavuso, Oupa Dodovu, Mere Ditakane, Andru Komane and Japie Jacob Metswamere were among those whose claims were rejected.
He further asked the church to give members a choice to leave or join the scheme of their own volition, and make available the scheme’s financial or bank statements.
Koma requested a meeting with Lekganyane and senior church members that was to be held on June 19 but was postponed to July 17 because Lekganyane wanted him to first undergo a Covid-19 test. But due to a delay in the Covid test results, Koma sugested it should be held on July 17 or July 24.
But the church wrote back, stating they were not available on the proposed dates due to earlier commitments.
In her response, Zelda Swanepoel of Webber Wentzel said Koma misunderstood the application and the relief it sought. She said Koma’s membership of the trust was voluntary, and he could terminate it any time if he wished. Swanepoel also rejected his request for the bank statements and said they were not relevant to the application. She warned him to desist from writing letters to the church and to direct such communication to the law firm.
She said Koma has no legal basis to oppose the application and if he did, they would seek an appropriate cost order against him. Swanepoel said the members whose claims were allegedly declined should follow the church procedures to lodge any grievance.