Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
THE High Court has blocked the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) from censuring the husband of a prominent Bulawayo lawyer who was indecently assaulted by a pastor at the church last year.
The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi follows an urgent chamber application filed by the abused lawyer’s husband challenging the church’s decision to slap him with a seven-month censure without conducting a proper disciplinary hearing.
The lawyer’s husband cited SDA’s Bulawayo City Centre branch and the church’s headquarters, South Zimbabwe Conference of the SDA Church, as respondents.
In his founding affidavit, the applicant, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his wife, argued he was censured by members of the board, deacons and deaconess and elders’ councils for confronting the pastor who indecently harassed his wife and reporting him to the police.
He sought an order nullifying the censure.
The applicant also wanted an order compelling the church to hold a proper hearing which excludes church elders who participated in the decision to convict and censure him within 14 days of the order.
The censure barred the applicant from participating, by voice or vote, in the affairs of the church. It also prevented him from leading any church-related activity and terminated his election or appointment to all positions in the church.
Justice Mathonsi said the church acted arbitrarily in imposing the censure without affording the applicant administrative justice.
“In the present case, the church appears to have acted arbitrarily in imposing the censure without affording the applicant his rights to administrative justice. I conclude therefore that the applicant has established a prima facie right and that there is no alternative remedy that will deliver justice and fairness,” said the judge.
Justice Mathonsi said the censure has the effect of curtailing the applicant’s rights as a member of the church.
“Considering that the respondents will lose absolutely nothing if that decision is stayed. They (respondents) have been investigating this matter since June and November 2016 without a calamity befalling the church and it appears to me that the balance of convenience favours the grant of the interdict,” ruled the judge.
The applicant said the church set in motion a process of investigating him and his wife after Pastor Brighton Ndebele (32) was convicted of indecently assaulting his wife in October 2016.
He said Gasiano Ngulube, the church’s district pastor, launched an attack on him and his wife for taking the matter to the police.
The applicant said his traumatised wife went through counselling after the abuse.
Bulawayo magistrate Ms Adelaide Mbeure last year convicted Ndebele of indecent assault and sentenced him to 12 months in jail, suspending three months for three years on condition that he did not within that period commit a similar offence.