An unholy row between two church pastors who have accused each other of skulduggery and defamation has resulted in an ugly legal battle in the High Court in Pretoria.
One of the pastors, who was temporarily suspended from his senior position in the Seventh-day Adventist Church last month, this week applied for an urgent interdict to stop his colleague and another congregant from defaming him on Facebook and other social media platforms and force him to remove the posts and apologise.
His colleague lashed back and vehemently denied defaming him or even referring to him by name in his posts supporting the church’s position against abuse and family violence.
Judge Colleen Collis ruled in favour of the senior church man’s opponent that the application was not urgent and struck it off the roll, but ordered the applicant to pay his opponent’s costs.
The applicant alleged in court papers his colleague had waged a vendetta against him since he was elected to his high position in 2016, but his colleague failed to secure a similarly high position.
He was at the same time charged and tried for rape but was later acquitted.
He alleged his colleague had embarked on a “vexatious witchhunt” against him by getting a “close friend” to write a letter to a fellow pastor accusing him of forcing himself on a young woman and insinuating that the church failed to protect her, but not mentioning his acquittal and then following it up with Facebook posts saying he would always stand by “the victims of sexual abuse”.
He claimed his colleague had in the past made “wild allegations” that he mismanaged church money, seemed “hell-bent” on destroying his good name and was the cause of his suspension.
His colleague said if the man was so concerned about protecting “his alleged good name”, he would not have waited for two years until after he was suspended to come to court.
After he had spoken to and offered emotional support to the leader’s alleged victim, the man suddenly arranged a meeting during which he claimed he “did not rape the woman but had consensual intercourse”, which admission of adultery shocked him, he added.
He said if anyone could be accused of defamation it was the applicant.
By Ilse de Lange – firstname.lastname@example.org