High Court rules against Seventh Day Adventist Church

Brighton Ndebele

Brighton Ndebele

Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
THE High Court has reversed a decision by the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) to censure the husband of a prominent city lawyer who was indecently assaulted by a pastor at the church last year.

The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Lawrence Kamocha followed an application for review 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.

In papers before the court, 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 terminating his election or appointment to all positions in church.

Justice Kamocha said the church’s decision to censure the applicant was a total disregard of the rules of natural justice.

“The proceedings were also in flagrant disregard of the fundamental rights of the church members as enshrined in the church’s manual 2015 edition. The respondents were aware or ought to have been aware of this eloquent rule of the church rule, but decided to breach it with impunity,” said the judge.

“While the main matter between the parties was indeed acrimonious and emotional that cannot be a licence for the respondents to flout the rules of natural justice and rules of their own church.”

Justice Kamocha said the church leadership deliberately chose to conduct an unfair hearing against the applicant.

The judge ordered the church leadership to pay the legal costs incurred by the applicant.

“When a party blatantly conducts an unfair hearing whose outcome the party knows will adversely affect the other party, such party lacks bona fides and I conclude that the hearing would have been done with malice. The court shows disapproval of such conduct by the respondents and applicant must be compensated the costs that he incurred,” said Justice Kamocha.

“The proceedings and decision of the first respondent to ensure applicant to a period of seven months within which he cannot participate in the affairs of the church either by vote or voice are both declared null and void and not binding on the applicant,” ruled the judge.

In March, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi ruled that the censure had the effect of curtailing the applicant’s rights as a member of the church. The ruling followed an urgent chamber application pending review by the lawyer’s husband.

The applicant said the church set in motion a process of investigating him and his wife after Pastor Brighton Ndebele 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 a counselling process after the abuse.

Ndebele (32) was last year convicted by Bulawayo magistrate Ms Adelaide Mbeure of indecent assault and sentenced to 12 months in jail. Three months were suspended for three years on condition that he did not within that period commit a similar offence. The remaining nine months were further suspended on condition that Ndebele performed 315 hours of community service at Hillside Police Station.

The church under the leadership of Pastor Ngulube subsequently rejected the conviction of Pastor Ndebele and launched an investigation on both the lawyer and her husband.

The investigation was headed by Elder Felix Matsika, the SDA’s Bulawayo City Centre Church, elders of the deacons and deaconesses. The applicant said the church leadership categorically stated that the church was not bound by the decision of the magistrate’s court which convicted Ndebele.

He said he was not given an opportunity to defend himself.

On April 20 last year at around midday, Ndebele went to the lawyer’s workplace to discuss church business since the complainant was also a head of social committees in the church.

After the discussion and when he was about to leave office, the pastor solicited for a hug from the complainant and she declined.

He then forcibly pulled the woman by the hand and squeezed her to his chest, before holding her waist and caressed her back and buttocks.

The complainant narrated her ordeal to a fellow congregant before she reported the matter to the police leading to Ndebele’s arrest.

The victim said the church’s failure to deal with the matter gave her an impression that it accepts as normal “predatory sexual proclivities from its pastors”.

She accused the church of allegedly trying to sweep Pastor Ndebele’s sexual mess under the carpet.


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  • we the people

    7th Commandment for the 7th Day Adventist Church
    Thy shall not commit adultery. maybe your bibles do not have this law hence you are protecting adulterous pastors, i wonder what else you are sweeping under the carpet…..

    • Mugavimbi_Naledi

      Were you there … did you see the adulterous practice (forget for a moment there is no adultery involved)?
      The SDA will always be and remain the remnant church and these assaults upon it (by such as you) confirm that it is the only church that teaches the Biblical truth across a whole number of doctrinal issues – chief of which is Sabbath worship and death – the very things for which people (the likes of you) get excited about when the SDA gets thrown about publicly in the mud this way

      To the SDA leadrship in Byo, stand by the truth and withstand the persecution; it’s not about you, but the cosmic great controversy.

      As for the judgment, one obviously needs more, but from what is written, it is clear that the facts may not be entirely what should be publicly made available.

      I’d appeal the judgment as irrational

      • Mabuza

        The Church and and any other church should not in anyway condone such behaviour. To be realist there are tares among the wheat and such incidents are not uncommon.

        Our women respect and treat pastors (sometimes better than they do their own husbands) and to use this position to eat the flock (Ezekiel 34) is criminal.

      • LihloLikazulu

        Nobody said anything against the SDA church or its teachings. The story is about the lustful behaviour. Refrain from defending such immoral tendencies. What if it was your own daughter? The man needs help and it seems to me that the Church leaders all need help. Nothing wrong with the Church but everything wrong with the church leadership.

      • Dunderhead

        Your church SDA is fine but the sheep just like in any other church do go astray. Pastors are not more SDA than ordinary members, so they should be disciplined if they prey on abazalwane. As for Sabbath worship, sabbath death (sounds strange) and being the remnant church is none of our business, we are okay with it as long as it makes you feel good about yourselves.

    • Sibbs

      The church did not protect the pastor, he was disfellowshipped/removed from the church. Meaning is no longer a member of SDA church. Where as the lawyer was censured for not following the church policy. Meaning the lawyer is still a member but inactive. He will become active after a stipulated period has lapsed. If you are not an Adventist you won’t know.

  • paul

    these days chronicle seems to post stories of anonymous people. Do these stories even exist? Protect the identity of the wife really?

    • Jojo

      Yeah I saw that then down the line the wife name is mentioned. Forget editing or proof reading

  • Ziyabheda

    What was the relationship between the pastor and the lawyer like in general? Any witnesses to the alleged forced hugging and kissing? If not,how could the court make a judgement in favor of any party,because its his word against hers!?

  • Mufundisi

    Its very unfortunate that one of our own went to soil the name of Christ’s church because of this petty issue. SDA have a lot of procedures which one should follow so that they are happy not this route. If you go to the courts where there is no God this what happens. However, whether censure is lifted or not look at the after effects too,will they worship together with the same fellows,who will want to worship with a person who is above the church. Its best to follow Matt 18 always not to shame us in public.what have you gained now.Plz put God in front of every situation not personal glory

    • Dunderhead

      Wait till they paw your wife, your eyes will be opened. God is everywhere, courts use the Bible.

    • Umazithulela

      i also don`t understand why people are more protective with the church than what happened to the “husband” . Wait till it happens to your wife. People should understand that before u are a Church member u are a person and anything infringing on your right as a person whether by a church member or gvt member should b brought to book.

    • Jojo

      Sexual abuse and u call it petty issue. My friend u r an asspit. No wonder there is no progress in Africa people like who think it’s OK to Sexual abuse women and get away with it

  • Mbla

    The courts can rule but remember the church can sideline you from any activities. You will be an outcast in your church believe it or not

  • Uyeza Futhi

    Many comments miss the real issue here. The church disciplined the perpetrator who is the pastor. The church also disciplined the husband for breaching church policy & protol (the Bible teaches against taking fellow worshippers to court). There is nothing about church sweeping anything under the carpet nor defending pastor against husband and wife. The issue is husband failing to accept a church and appealing to non Godly institutions. This is about the weak spirituality of the husband and only those who are spiritual (those with true and firm biblical understanding) will understand this. So finally the matter here is church judgement on the behaviour of the lawyer versus his opinion and hence ignoring higher appeal church structures and opting for the courts.

    • only me

      Wonder how the church would handle cases of child molestation.

    • mapingu

      @uyeza_futhi:disqus: Can you plse give us the details of how the church disciplined the predatory pastor? Otherwise your comments remain empty. By the was born in SDA family; my father was a pastor (now retired) and high ranking official in SDA church (was based in Gweru, SDA Zambezi Conference offices for his last 10 yrs of active service). Suffice to say, it is my first time to get it from you that the SDA church does not recognize the jurisdiction of our courts of laws; and I don’t believe you though. Since when?

      • Uyeza Futhi

        @ mapingu: get the facts right. we all responding to reports as given in this paper. It was reported and we no for a fact that the church board took a decision against their pastor. secondly where did I say adventists do not recognise the jurisdiction of the courts? I said it is unbiblical to take a fellow believer to the courts. You being a son of a pastor does not add anything to this discussion if you don’t contribute the the context in question

        • Mdala Moyo

          Wena ndoda uyawhumana. How can you deny what you’ve just written. Did you not say that the court is ungodly? And by that do mean the SDA recognises it? Akube serious please!!!

    • Jojo

      My friend u are wrong and misreading the bible. There are issues that can be discussed without going to courts but this issue is beyond church. The lawyer did the right thing reporting to the police.

      Leaving the church to resolve issues will lead to similar catholic sexual abuse consequences. How do u know the church elders are not predators themselves. I would do the same thing as the lawyer.

      Do u understand when Jess says give ceaser what belongs to ceaser. U have to follow the law of the land as long as it’s in harmony with the word of God. In this case it is

      • Boikhutso Kgwadi

        Kanti iRoma ingena ngaphi entweni zeSabatha? Akelekele

        ukuzenza abangcwele ngcwele la!

  • only me

    Brighton Ndebele do you see what you have done or not?

  • Danai Pazvagozha

    I am an SDA myself. First I was a member of the Makokoba SDA church Byo, then transferred to SDA City Centre church Byo, after one elder preached a sermon that suggested that maiden from non-ndebele are all evil and must not be married by ndebeles. And I thought I would have pleasant and inspiring sermons. Only to be told that i cannot belong to one of the singing groups if I still eat meat, and they gave me a book by Ellen G white that suggested so. We then went for camp meeting at Solusi farm, only for one pastor to be dethroned after a certain married woman confessed that a prominent pastor M….si fathered a son with her in Gokwe sometime back, and she could not live with the sin any more. Almost all SDAs in bulawayo know this day. My point is, SDA has a lot os miscreants in the church. They think they are the best belivers, and yet they are really horrible in darkness. Those suits you see on Saturdays mean nothing. They think observing the seveth day is all that God needs. Most of them are adulterous, I can say 70%. Pastors are the worst. There is a lot of tribalism, especially in Byo. Ask pastor Choga, one of the few clean pastors remaining

  • Izaga

    Kodwa indoda efebayo kayilangqondo; lowo okwenzayo lokho uyazibulala yena ngokwakhe. Izidutshulo lehlazo kuyisabelo sakhe, ukuyangeka kwakhe kakusoze kwafa kwaphela ngoba ubukhwele bendoda yalowomfazi buyiqubula ulaka, ingabe isaba lozwelo lapho isiphindisela. Kayizukuvuma inhlawulo; Kayiyikwamukela isivalamlomo loba singakanani.
    Izaga 6:32‭-‬35

  • Boikhutso Kgwadi

    Sweeping things under the carpet to protect the good name of a church, Haaaa!! Okulempondo akufakwa e phephabekini!