Church leaders in messy fight

Church leaders in messy fight

MASERU – A brutal fight between senior priests has thrown the Anglican Church in Lesotho into turmoil. Reverend Maieane Khaketla who was suspended for indiscipline last week has now teamed up with five other priests in an all-out attack against Bishop Mallane Taaso who is the head of the Anglican Church in Lesotho. In defiance of his suspension Reverend Khaketla conducted the holy mass at the St. James’ Cathedral last Sunday.

“I went there to do my God-given duty and that was all,” Reverend Khaketla said.  Reverends Palo Mphethi, Samuel Monyamane, Maseru Mongalo, Sello Moshoeshoe and Molemo Baartjies are fighting in Reverend Khaketla’s corner. The faction wrote a scathing statement accusing Bishop Taaso and the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, of running the diocese like their fief. They said Bishop Taaso was violating procedure. Archbishop Makgoba, they said, is not helping matters because he had ignored their pleas for help.

“We wrote letters and articles of presentment in which we accused Bishop Taaso of the diocese of Lesotho, of among other things, misappropriation of church funds and fraud and corruption,” Reverend Khaketla said. “When we put pressure on the Archbishop, he finally appointed a board of preliminary inquiry which was chaired by Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe.”

“The Report was handed to the Archbishop, and up to date the contents of the report have been kept secret, even today we are still waiting for the Ndwandwe report.” Reverend Khaketla also said they were told that the Archbishop had decreed that the report should not be made public “as it will embarrass the church”. “This is the same Archbishop who at the time was busy calling the South African government to be transparent,” Reverend Khaketla said.

He said they continued to pester the Archbishop for intervention as they were all in suspension and were not paid. “The Archbishop finally relented although he refused to release the report. He sent a team to Lesotho made up of 10 members including Advocate Palesa Ncholo as the chair.” He said at the end of the meeting they drew up a list of resolutions, “which we agreed would be adhered to by all, and would be the pointer for their way forward”.

He said the resolutions included the immediate scrapping of the assessment of no stipend policy, no transfer for the clergy without prior consultation with the concerned priest and the suggested host parish. The resolutions also included immediate payment of all outstanding stipends for the suspended clergy, immediate revamping of the accounting system and installation of the pastel accounting system. They also agreed to have a proper selection, preparation and training of ordinary candidates and to stop discussing diocesan affairs in the media.

“But within two days Bishop Taaso called a press conference and said we were pardoned which was wrong according to our resolutions,” he added. He said even before the dust of the “visitorial team” had settled, “the bishop was already trampling underfoot all the resolutions we had agreed upon”. “All of us were immediately suspended without any consultation whatsoever, we were placed in parishes that never reach their monthly assessment as a punishment so that we could not get our salaries.”

He also said some of them were transferred to parishes which had no rectories and they had to fend for themselves and seek boarding among the faithful congregants. “We wrote to the Bishop requesting a meeting to chart the way forward and try to implement the visitorial teams’ resolutions but he blatantly refused to meet us saying we should talk to our archdeacons,” he added. He said they wrote ten letters but the bishop did not respond. Reverend Khaketla said the bishop has for a long time, since the joint statement, waged a war of words against them and also attacked them on pulpits and with his blessings many of his friends have gone to the media to attack them.

“As we had no option and access to pulpits across the diocese like the bishop and his cohorts, we had no option but to resort to social media.” Reverend Khaketla also said they wrote messages on Facebook saying “Taaso Must Go” and as a result he called them separately to question about posts but they refused to be divided. He said he was given a show cause letter by the bishop but did not respond to it until April 20 when he was suspended. “We repeat our call that the Bishop has done enough damage to the church.”

“It is time he went home, we have put petition in all parishes, which we request all Anglicans to sign,” he said. Bishop Taaso directed thepost to talk to his secretary, David Sengoai, who said there is no report done because the preliminary hearing was followed by a commission sent by Archbishop. “I don’t understand what report they are talking about,” Sengoai said. “The commission was here and they made it clear that Bishop Taaso did not misuse Anglican churches funds but they keep on painting the Bishop with those allegations.”

“There is nothing written that shows all the resolutions they are talking about. The six priests are telling lies”. “(Reverend Khaketla) always talks about resolutions that we do not even know. Logically, there is no way transfers can be negotiable,” Sengoai said. “What really provoked and angered Khaketla and those other priests was the fact that Bishop Taaso was found clean by the particular commission pertaining corruption issues,” Sengoai added. “What they want is to remove the Bishop so that they become the leaders of the church.”

Nkheli Liphoto


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