An unholy feud between two rival factions of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Grahamstown spilled over to the courts following a spate of incidents at its Sabbath services.
In an unusual take on disruptive politics, an advocate has argued that ceaseless, loud singing and praying in the church, drowning out the service, was a form of legal, “peaceful protest”.
Prominent figures embroiled in the scandal include ANC councillor and well-known rugby administrator Ramie Xhonxa.
The court papers detail how one group allegedly persistently disrupted church services by singing and praying non-stop to drown out sermons by church leaders.
The protesting group is not happy with the church leadership led by pastor Zuko Ludaka, Xhonxa and Leonard Melumzi Mbaza.
Mbaza and Xhonxa are listed as second and fourth applicants.
The Cape Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Joza Seventh Day Adventist Church are listed as first and third respondents.
The court papers detail how a church service could not start one Saturday after the accused group allegedly locked the gates with chains, keeping rivals outside.
Last year the same church members reached an out-of-court settlement following a bruising court battle. But they are back in court as tensions over leadership styles rise.
A faction led by Xhonxa and Mbaza approached the Grahamstown High Court to interdict 16 respondents from disrupting the church.
Mlungisi Peter Magalela, the first respondent, is accused of chaining the entrance to the church building on Saturday October 29 last year.
It is also claimed the church service the following Saturday (November 5) started late because a crisis committee had to engage with Magalela.
Advocate Matthew Mphahlwa argues in court documents on behalf of Magalela and company that singing was a form of a “peaceful protest”. Mphahlwa charged that although a protest by its nature was obstructive, noisy and disruptive, it was lawful.
Xhonxa declined to comment, and directed queries to Ludaka, who said the church would not discuss their affairs with the media. Mbaza could not be reached.
The matter was heard on Thursday before Judge Nomathamsanqa Beshe. Judgment was reserved. — email@example.com