Zion Christian Church (ZCC) bishop Barnabas Lekganyane would remain the leader of the church all his life unless God decided otherwise, the church said on Tuesday. Lekganyane, a leader of what is thought to be the biggest church in Southern Africa, with about 10 million members, can only be succeeded by his son or a close family relative after his death.
Along with leaders for Manna Tabernacle, Kingsway Family Church and Dinamus Gemeenskap Kerk, Lekganyane appeared before the Commission for the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.
The hearing, held in Bolivia Lodge outside Polokwane, Limpopo, is investigating complaints from various sectors on the alleged commercialisation of religion in SA.
Lekganyane was asked to explain how the church made money, dealt with gender in senior ranks, its succession plan and the healing process.
In his response, Lekganyane told the commission the organisation made money from church offerings.
The bishop, whose church has members across South Africa and beyond its borders, said the ZCC also made money from a funeral scheme, motor insurance scheme, Masogana le Makgarebe (girls and boys) schemes and from his transport businesses.
“Our sermons preach peace and unity. We free our members to join any political party of their choice. We allow them to join, as long as it does not conflict with the church’s daily activities,” said Lekganyane.
“That is why our church has had different presidential visits in the past, the likes of world icon Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk and others.
“We do not encourage our church to be involved in fundraising. It must also be borne in mind that our pastors are not ZCC employees. They do the work on a voluntarily basis.
“We train them for about three months and promote them, depending on a calling from God.”
According to Lekganyane, the church, formed during the Anglo Boer War, was committed to community development.
“We have built a mill, which provided jobs to 180 local unemployed people,” he said. Lekganyane added: “We have also built a clinic assisting more than 2 000 people a month.
“We are committed to the upliftment of the standard of education in our province, especially in maths, science and accounting.”
Commissioner Helen Julia Mabale was worried about the exclusion of women within the church’s senior ranks and about Lekganyane being the only signatory on finances.
“It baffles me to see only men in the presentation,” she said.
“We also want to know why the bishop is stated as the only signatory of the church.”
But chairperson for the commission Thoko MkhwanaziXaluva said she was satisfied with how the church handled its finances and its day-to-day activities.