Anglican bishop faces revolt



Billy Ntaote

SIX reverends in the Anglican Diocese of Lesotho have laid charges against Diocese Bishop Adam Taaso for mismanagement, corruption and dabbling in active politics.

The reverends submitted the charges via email and courier on Thursday to Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba.

Led by Reverend Father Maieane Khaketla, the disgruntled clerics include Reverend Father Maseru Mongalo, Reverend Father Palo Mphethi, Reverend Father Sello Moshoeshoe, Reverend Father Samuel Monyamane and Reverend Father Molemo Baatjies.

Titled “Anglican Church of Southern Africa Diocese of Lesotho Articles of Presentment”, the charges could lead to a tribunal presided over by Archbishop Makgoba and bishops drawn from other dioceses in the region. The powers of the tribunal range from reprimanding, suspension to excommunication.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Reverend Khaketla told the Sunday Express they were now waiting to hear from the church’s provincial office within 21 days of filing the charges in line with the constitution of the church. He said their efforts to find recourse locally in the dispute with Bishop Taaso, who was consecrated in October 2008, had been fruitless.

“We exhausted local remedies by pleading with the church’s registrar, (Kings Counsel) Advocate Motiea Teele, who did not respond to our letter, and we also wrote to the Diocese Council,” Reverend Khaketla said.

“However, up until our decision to take this matter to the provincial level, the Diocese Council had failed to address our grievances.”

In the dossier, the reverends argued that they sought all the avenues possible to try and resolve the impasse.

“This is evidenced by our letter to the Bishop (Taaso) dated March 31, 2015. There is also a second letter addressed to the Registrar of the Diocese (KC Advocate Teele) dated September 7, 2015. A third letter to the Diocesan Council dated written on October 20, 2015 shows our fruitless efforts,” reads the document.

Among the transgressions Bishop Taaso is accused of committing are assault or threat of assault, conduct giving just cause for scandal or offence “including without limitation, offensive or abusive language”.

The charges also include fraudulent, corrupt or dishonest conduct, and violation of the constitution and canons of the church.

“There is concern that the Lord Bishop is misusing church funds. This may be in the form of use of church monies for personal gain and suspiciously fraudulent transactions using church funds,” read the submissions.

“On the 13th November 2011, the former Diocesan Administrator, Robin Patter, sent an e-mail to the Lord Bishop concerning withdrawals that were being made in some Diocesan accounts in South Africa.

“The Bishop never responded to it, and attempts to get him to attend to this matter have been fruitless, making us suspicious that he was party to those transactions.”

The reverends alleged that the Diocesan financial statements for the year ended December 2011 indicated “direct and unknown deposits” of M496 984.60 and “unknown payments” of M449 076.88. For the Anglican Training Centre they also queried mysterious deposits of M656 043.74 and unknown payments of M165 331.29.

“The Financial statements for the year ended December 2012 have direct/unknown deposits totaling M1 018 246.86 and unknown payments totaling M839 635.00,” the document reads.

“Concerns were raised at the 17th session of the Diocesan synod but no action was taken to attend to all these concerns. The question about unknown deposits of M1 063 997 and unknown payments of M206 842.00 was not answered.”

They also accused the bishop of receiving numerous petty cash cheques “for which there are no supporting documents”.

“The question arises as to what the bishop does with petty cash amounts of between M5 000 and M10 000 fortnightly,” the reverends queried.

“The bishop has a petrol card which the diocese pays monthly. He, however, has many cheques made out to him as petrol expenses.

“There are staggering amounts paid to the bishop’s wife, which cannot be justified. When going for confirmations, the diocese fills his car with petrol, and the bishop is catered for by the parish he is going to visit.  “However, he gives himself a per diem every time he goes for confirmations.  How it is calculated is a mystery because it fluctuates from M450 to M1 000.”

They accused Bishop Taaso of also giving relatives accompanying him a per diem of M150 per day and paying for his son’s college fees at the church’s expense.

The six priests also noted a “general feeling around the country” that the bishop was an active member of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.

“Although a person may have particular political leanings, it is not expedient for a bishop to publicly show his preferences,” the dossier reads.

“In April 2015, when the Prime Minister (Pakalitha Mosisili) was sworn-in at Setsoto Stadium, Bishop Taaso delivered a homily in which he ‘thanked God for bringing in this new government, which would restore the country’s dignity, which up until now was non-existent’.”  The reverends argued that the statement did not sit well with most Basotho.

“In fact in the media, and especially the numerous local radio stations, he is no longer referred to as Bishop Taaso, but as the dignity-restoring bishop.”

They also accused Bishop Taaso of harassing other priests by withholding and cutting their stipends at his whim as well as threatening to physically assault his perceived enemies.

However, contacted for comment yesterday, Bishop Taaso dismissed the allegations saying they were “malicious lies”.

“I’m so disappointed by such conduct. All these allegations are lies by people who have failed to perform their duties as reverends,” said Bishop Taaso.

The bishop said the reverends had cases to answer for and failed to attend their disciplinary hearings “yet they continue to bring the church into disrepute and defaming my character”.

“Reverand Moriana was called for a tribunal he knew very well about but he refused to attend, while Reverend Mangalo has been suspended for stealing M31 000 from the church yet he refuses to change his ways,” Bishop Taaso said.

“I should also mention that Reverend Khaketla recently went to the extent of beating up our office administrator. He failed to go to a disciplinary hearing but all he is busy doing is referring issues in an unprocedural manner to the archbishop in Cape Town.

“The archbishop told him to go to the tribunal, but he has now resorted to insulting the very same archbishop whom they now seek to intervene in their allegations. They go to him to seek help when it suits them, and they insult him whenever it suits their interests.

“All the allegations they made about monies whose sources are unknown are lies. All we did was to close many of the church’s bank accounts and left only four operational and that is where the money came from. I should also mention that Reverend Palo also insulted senior reverends,” said Bishop Taaso.

On allegations of being a political activist, he said: “All I did was to tell Prime Minister Mosisili that he needs to rectify his old mistakes now that he has been given a second chance to lead the country.

“But it’s so shocking that they are politicizing issues and trying to push some hidden agendas of their own.”

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