Case of church’s missing millions

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NONDUMISO MBUYAZI

A bitter row has broken out at the Church of the Holy Ghost, in Hammarsdale, over allegations of mismanagement of funds and claims of missing millions.

A case of fraud is now being investigated by the police regarding the claims.

Certain church members have accused some pastors and senior members of fraudulently using church funds for their own gain.

A group calling itself Church of the Holy Ghost Concern Members said the church coffers were short R6.5 million, and blamed Hendrick Sibuyi, the church’s general committee chairman, for the shortfall.

Sibuyi has, however, denied any wrongdoing.

The group said they were first alerted of the shortfall early this year by some pastors.

Hubert Maphumulo, who spoke on behalf of the group, said they had been informed that Sibuyi had influenced some pastors to invest R1.5 m in a certain project.

“The pastors were told that they would receive R100 000 a month, which would be shared equally among them for four years if they agreed to invest the money.

“That money belonged to the church, but the R100 000 would be given to those pastors, not put into the church account. The money was released without the knowledge of the congregation or deacons,” he said.

During a meeting last month, Maphumulo said it emerged that R5m was also missing from the church’s R35m account.

“The R1.5m seemed to be just the tip of the iceberg. We were beyond shocked when we found out that more money was missing and we weren’t given an explanation of where it had disappeared to,” he said.

Transfer

During the meeting, Maphumulo said a senior church member had informed them that he had been given instructions to transfer huge sums into unknown bank accounts.

“Our concern is that in- formation of these events are being withheld from church members. Pastors say members must not be told the truth because they might backslide and leave the church.

“Our pastors don’t seem to care about the fact that church institution policies or non-profit organisation laws require transparent accounta- bility since church money is public funds, but they have the nerve to say people must not be told the truth about church financial discrepancies,” Maphumulo said.

Sibuyi however has rejected Maphumulo’s allegations, saying Maphumulo and his group had been dismissed from the church for sowing division.

“Early this year these guys started complaining about people and things that they didn’t like in the church, but they failed to follow the proper channels. They were told to stop and that is when they started spreading rumours,” said Sibuyi.

About a month ago Sibuyi said Maphumulo and his group were charged internally for sowing division in the church and they were dismissed.

Sibuyi conceded that things were not rosy at the church, but he blamed Maphumulo and his group. “They have caused havoc in the church,” he said.

Sibuyi also dismissed allegations that there was money missing from the church’s account.

He conceded however that R1.5m had been invested, but he said this was done after the church committee had given him the go-ahead.

“On the R5m, that is just nonsense because the church doesn’t even have R10m… I don’t know where they got that figure from,” he said.

Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that a fraud case had been opened last month and that police were investigating.

Asked if he and the rest of his group had been dismissed from the church, Maphumulo said he was still a member of the church.

“They sent us letters claiming that we have been expelled, but a church is a public entity. They can’t dismiss us without a hearing, which never occurred.

“These are just Sibuyi’s attempts at trying to prevent us from speaking the truth, but they won’t work.

“We will continue to expose them because a church is a house of God and a place of worship, not (sic) for criminal activities,” he said.

The church, was in the news in March this year when one its pastors, Cyril Mhlonipheni Ngcobo, was arrested after police allegedly found about R1m in prescription drugs at the church.

He was charged with the contravention of the Medicines Act.

At the time police said various medicines were being dispensed to members of the community and that the packaging was marked for state use.

Ngcobo, 34, who is out on bail was promoted to head pastor shortly after the incident.

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