Pressure on church to mend its ways and root out corruption ahead of Apostles’ gathering
Cape Town - Ahead of the Old Apostolic Church of Africa (OAC) annual conference this month, questions have been raised about the church's seriousness in rooting out alleged corruption and fraud and implementing transformation within its ranks.
The church's Apostles attend a conference twice a year, usually in March and September, where a particular theme and teaching is decided on and channelled to the officers and members.
Temporal matters are also discussed at the conference and resolutions made by the church's board of management are tabled for approval.
The OAC made headlines last year after it was hauled before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), following allegations that its white minority were using the organisation as a vehicle to enrich themselves at the expense of their majority, black members.
In an extensive complaint submitted to the commission, attorney and former priest Mark Hess detailed alleged irregularities in the governance of the church, along with systemic discrimination.
The complaint follows several years of investigation, and reveals a number of church properties in areas including Constantia, Bergvliet and Stellenbosch, sold for far below their market value to management staff who later sold the properties at a profit.
It also details an alleged lack of action taken against an employee who had embezzled more than R500 000 from the church over a few months. After successful plea negotiations with the State, Anne Jacobs, of Tokai was convicted of stealing the money and sentenced to six years in prison, suspended for five years on strict conditions.
Jacobs is required to deposit R4 000 a month into the church's bank account as a form of reimbursement, and to fax proof of payment to the church.
A criminal complaint had also been opened against the church.
According to documents, the Scorpions in 2008 said they would be referring the matter to police, with a case number for reference.
Police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut said this case was filed at Durbanville police station on September 23, 2011.
“A fraud case was investigated by the Cape Town Commercial Crime Unit and a suspect was arrested. The case was later withdrawn against the suspect.”
The National Prosecuting Authority was not able to answer questions about why the case was withdrawn.
Allegations have since been made that church officials had attended Durbanville police station demanding to know who the complainants in the criminal matter were, and subsequently a complaint was allegedly lodged against an investigating officer.
OAC Western Cape district secretary Edrick Ipland said: “The statements and allegations made are not true and the matter is being dealt with by the Apostolate of the Church”.
Hess said it was important for church members to become aware that they should be entitled to the financial information of the church.
“They also need to be part of the decision-making and should commence with a process to amend the church constitution.
“As matters stand, the white minority has designed a business model to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority black members. Strategic amendments were made to their constitutions, ordinances and statutes pre and post democracy to retain ownership of the church as well as excluding members from any decision-making regarding the finances.”
Hess said he had visits from church officials after they became aware that he was looking into their business operations.
“There were requests for follow-up meetings. I declined the request.”