Court orders clergyman not to use church’s letterhead, emblem
Pretoria - The controversial clergyman Buyisile Ngqulwana, who has been embroiled in a bitter fight with the SA Council of Messianic Churches in Christ over his use of their logo under the pretext of being its secretary-general, was on Thursday barred from doing so by the Eastern Cape High Court in Grahamstown.
The the SA Council of Messianic Churches in Christ approached the court seeking relief after Ngqulwana had used their letterheads and designation without their knowledge while purporting to be the churches’ secretary-general.
In court papers, the churches’ president, Caesar Nongqunga, who is also the chief apostle of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ, argued that Ngqulwana’s action was bound to cause them irreversible harm.
In an attempt to derail the case, Ngqulwana argued that the matter should not be heard by the high court division in the Eastern Cape, because he was not a permanent resident within its jurisdiction. He claimed he hailed from Pietermaritzburg. But his claim was dismissed as it appeared that he only stayed there temporarily for the duration of his studies.
The court found that Ngqulwana had no grounds for using the churches’ logo, due to lack of evidence that he had been reinstated as the secretary-general after he relinquished the position to pursue his studies at the University of the Free State.
The court also rejected Ngqulwana’s assertion that he had been reinstated by Nongqunga in February 2019, saying it was “palpably implausible and clearly untenable”.
“It also baffles the mind on what basis the respondent asserts that he is secretary-general of the applicant, if, according to him, his church Twelve Apostles Church in Christ was suspended from the applicant’s council,” the court said.
The suspension apparently took place at the height of accusations made by Ngqulwana against ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, who was fingered as the brains behind the formation of a political party, the African Transformation Movement (ATM), before the 2019 provincial and national elections. He claimed Magashule assisted with funds for the party’s formation and registration and also advised on changing its name from the African Transformation Congress to ATM.
Magashule has flatly denied the accusations and has slapped Ngqulwana with a defamation lawsuit, claiming R500 000 in damages.
The ATM also hit back by filing for a lawsuit, claiming Ngqulwana had maligned the party’s public image, which affected its performance during the 2019 elections.
Ngqulwana’s credibility as the messianic churches’ secretary-general was also questioned on the basis that he was found to have resigned and been replaced by ATM member Mxolisi Phakathi, according to court papers.
On Friday, ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula, expressed relief following the court judgment, saying his party was vindicated after Ngqulwana was called out as a liar.
“The claim that Mr Ngqulwana made that the ANC general-secretary gave us money for ATM to be formed in a way destroyed our credibility for a political party formed by ordinary citizens,” he said.
The court also nullified the decision taken in one of the “churches’ conferences”, where a decision to deregister the ATM was allegedly taken in April 2019, according to Ngqulwana in court papers. The conference in question was said to have been illegitimate and not properly convened.
Zungula said: “During the course of the last elections, there was uncertainty in the public whether ATM was on the ballot paper or not and that dented our image politically.”
Ngqulwana didn’t respond to questions emailed to him on Friday about his reaction to the ruling and whether he would be appealing against it.
However, Zungula said there had not been any correspondence from Ngqulwana’s legal representatives showing the intention to file an appeal.
“I would not know (about a possible appeal case). He has not at all reached out to us,” he said. The ATM’s brand was hurt “in a number of ways, and he has hurt my own personal brand”.
The court ordered that Ngqulwana was “restricted and restrained from and in any manner or fashion, be directly and indirectly, representing or purporting to present the applicant or and holding out to be the general secretary of the applicant”. He was also ordered to pay the applicant’s costs.