Ex-pastor interdicted from posting defamatory remarks against Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

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A general view of a branch of the Universal Church is seen.
A general view of a branch of the Universal Church is seen.
Papi Morake, Gallo Images
  • The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has interdicted former Universal Church pastor Bongani Manyisa from posting defamatory remarks about the church and its leaders on Facebook. 
  • In posts from May and June 2021, Manyisa alleged, among other things, he was not allowed to have children and was forced to get a vasectomy.
  • Acting Judge Gerald Nochumsohn said Manyisa's claims were damaging to the church and its leaders.

The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has interdicted Bongani Manyisa, a former pastor of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, from making defamatory remarks about the church. 

The ruling emanates from Manyisa's Facebook posts in which he accused the church and its leaders of being oppressive and corrupt. 

The court found his statements had not been proven to be true, in the public interest or amounted to fair comment.

READ | 'They control your life': CRL hears damning allegations about the Universal Church

In the posts shared between May and June 2021, Manyisa accused the church and its leaders of coercing pastors into using scripture to extort money from congregants.

In its application for an interdict, the church argued it had suffered reputational damage as a result of Manyisa's posts. 

It also argued the posts were untrue and shared with the intent to tarnish its reputation. 

Besides the allegations of theft, Manyisa posted several others on Facebook. 

On May 27, he claimed to have a "shocking" video showing church leaders "dancing and celebrating money received during the campaign".

Acting Judge Gerald Nochumsohn said the posts were damaging to the church and its leaders. 

In his affidavit, Manyisa accused the church of threatening pastors with "harsh punishment" if they disobeyed it. 

He also alleged he was not allowed to have children and the church coerced him into getting a vasectomy to demonstrate his loyalty to it.  

Manyisa said although he was miserable, he was reminded by the church not to question God's plan for his life. 

Nochumsohn added while Manyisa maintained in his affidavit his allegations were fair and a matter of public interest, he had not produced any evidence to support his allegations. 

He said:

The respondent does not take the court into his confidence by advising when the video recordings were filmed, what the people filmed were saying, or what they were doing.

"The respondent failed to allege what the video intended to capture or portray. One would have expected all of such detail to be fully articulated in the answering affidavit," he added. 

Similarly in his affidavit, Manyisa failed to disclose who allegedly forced him to have a vasectomy. 

Nochumsohn said interdicting Manyisa from posting material, including pictures and videos, was the right decision as fining him would not make up for the unquantifiable damage against the church and its leaders.

He also ordered Manyisa to remove the offending video and posts from his Facebook page.

"An action for damages cannot afford similar protection due to the continuous nature of the publications and the fact that damages may well be unquantifiable," Nochumsohn added.

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