Bishop wants to work

2014-09-02 00:00

AN Anglican bishop has turned to the high court for an order to allow him to resume work.

He also wants to interdict the church from preventing him doing so.

Acting Judge Piet Bezuidenhout yesterday reserved judgment in the application by Bishop Mlibo Ngewu, in which he seeks the right to resume his episcopal duties and rights as the bishop of the Diocese of Umzimvubu in the Kokstad area.

The application is against Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and the Anglican Church Diocese of Umzimvubu.

Ngewu fell foul of the church authorities from 2011 due to concerns over alleged mismanagement of, and growing divisions within, his diocese.

According to court documents, Ngewu reached agreement with the Metropolitan (Archbishop Makgoba) in February 2012 to “temporarily” relinquish his position at Umzimvubu, pending investigations to be carried out by a provincial task team. The task team reported back to the Synod at the end of September 2013.

While the report was said to be “incomplete”, it recommended that Ngewu return to office “with a view to effecting reconciliation” at the diocese.

Since then disciplinary charges have been filed against Ngewu, which are still pending.

They include charges that his conduct was “ cause for scandal or offence”; accuse him of “fraudulent, corrupt or dishonest” behaviour and/or of “negligent or reckless” management of church property and funds.

Advocate Gavin Morley SC, for the Anglican Church, submitted that under the agreement with the archbishop, Ngewu’s return to office was a matter of “mutual agreement”.

And, pending the outcome of the disciplinary process, the Diocese of Umzimvubu effectively remained under administration, he said.

“Until the disciplinary process is finalised it would be highly undesirable for him [Ngewu] to return with such a cloud hanging over his head,” said Morley.

However, advocate Peter Blomkamp, ­appearing for Ngewu, said Ngewu’s agreement to step aside temporarily from his office was “not open ended” .

Ngewu agreed to “give space” to the provincial task team to do their work in a bid to resolve the divisions in the diocese. Once the task team completed its work and reported to the Synod of Bishops, he was entitled to return.

Blomkamp said when the agreement was reached, there were no disciplinary steps envisaged against Ngewu, and it could not have been part of the agreement that these had to be finalised before he could resume his duties.

“If he wants to return to office with a cloud hanging over his head, so be it,”

he said.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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