Fired SDA pas­tor faces $250 000 law­suit from abused lawyer

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Mashudu Net­sianda

A LAWYER who was in­de­cently as­saulted by fired Sev­enth Day Ad­ven­tist (SDA) church pas­tor Brighton Nde­bele is su­ing the dis­graced cler­gy­man and the church for $250 000 in dam­ages.

Nde­bele (32) was con­victed of in­de­cently as­sault­ing the lawyer in Oc­to­ber 2016 by Bu­l­awayo mag­is­trate Ms Ade­laide Mbeure and sen­tenced to 12 months in jail. Three months were sus­pended for three years on con­di­tion that he did not within that pe­riod com­mit a sim­i­lar of­fence.

The re­main­ing nine months were fur­ther sus­pended on con­di­tion that Nde­bele per­forms 315 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice at Hill­side Po­lice Sta­tion.

The lawyer is su­ing the fired pas­tor and the church for cri­men in­juria, psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress, con­tu­melia and vi­o­la­tion of her per­sonal in­tegrity.

In pa­pers filed at the Bu­l­awayo High Court, through her lawyers Dube-Ta­chiona and Ts­van­gi­rai Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers, the abused lawyer cited Nde­bele, the Zim­babwe Union Con­fer­ence of the SDA, South Zim­babwe Con­fer­ence of the SDA and the church’s Bu­l­awayo City Cen­tre branch as re­spon­dents.

In her found­ing af­fi­davit, the lawyer who can­not be named for le­gal rea­sons said she was shocked and hu­mil­i­ated when Nde­bele took ad­van­tage of her.

“By forc­ing un­in­vited and un­wanted phys­i­cal, sex­ual charged con­tact with me, the first de­fen­dant (Nde­bele) vi­o­lated my right to in­tegrity of the body and per­son­al­ity. Dur­ing the month of June 2016, Nde­bele sent me sev­eral mes­sages on What­sApp dis­play­ing dis­dain and mock­ery to my mar­i­tal sta­tus and in­jured feel­ings,” she said.

Although the SDA fired Nde­bele, the lawyer in­sisted in her pa­pers that the church failed to take nec­es­sary dis­ci­plinary mea­sures against him.

“I aver that the sec­ond and third de­fen­dants (Zim­babwe Union Con­fer­ence of the SDA and South Zim­babwe Con­fer­ence of the SDA) took no steps to in­ves­ti­gate my re­port and com­plaint against Nde­bele and in­stead chose to in­ter­ro­gate me for mak­ing a re­port to the po­lice,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to a letter dated Fe­bru­ary 23, 2017, the church voted at a church busi­ness meet­ing that Nde­bele should be re­lieved of his du­ties as a pas­tor.

The letter, which was ad­dressed to Nde­bele, was signed by one P Ncube who is SDA’s Bu­l­awayo City Cen­tre head el­der and two church clerks only iden­ti­fied as S Hanyane and N Ny­athi.

The lawyer ac­cused the church of fail­ing to of­fer her coun­selling. The lawyer said af­ter re­port­ing the abuse to the po­lice, the church de­clared her an out­cast and rene­gade.

She said she was emo­tion­ally and men­tally trau­ma­tised af­ter the abuse and had to re­quest to be re­moved from church mem­ber­ship.

“As a re­sult of the ac­tions of the de­fen­dants, I suf­fered se­ri­ous men­tal an­guish, psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress and trauma, in­jury to my dig­nity and a vi­o­la­tion to my per­son and fam­ily pri­vacy. The church failed to en­sure an en­vi­ron­ment in which all mem­bers are safe from sex­ual ha­rass­ment and mo­lesta­tion by pas­tors and any per­sons af­fil­i­ated to it,” she said.

On April 20 last year at around mid­day, Nde­bele went to the lawyer’s work­place to dis­cuss church busi­ness since the com­plainant was also a head of so­cial com­mit­tees in the church.

Af­ter the dis­cus­sion and when he was about to leave of­fice, the pas­tor so­licited for a hug from the com­plainant and she de­clined.

He then forcibly pulled the woman by the hand and squeezed her to his chest, be­fore hold­ing her waist and ca­ressed her back and but­tocks. She re­ported the mat­ter to the po­lice lead­ing to Nde­bele’s ar­rest.

The lawyer said the church’s fail­ure to deal with the mat­ter gave her an im­pres­sion that it ac­cepts as nor­mal “preda­tory sex­ual pro­cliv­i­ties from its pas­tors.” She ac­cused the church of al­legedly try­ing to sweep Pas­tor Nde­bele’s sex­ual mess un­der the car­pet.

Bu­l­awayo High Court judge Jus­tice Ni­cholas Mathonsi last month blocked SDA from cen­sur­ing the lawyer’s hus­band.

His rul­ing fol­lowed an ur­gent cham­ber ap­pli­ca­tion by the abused lawyer’s hus­band chal­leng­ing the church’s de­ci­sion to slap him with a seven month cen­sure with­out con­duct­ing a proper dis­ci­plinary hear­ing.

The lawyer’s hus­band ar­gued he was cen­sured by mem­bers of the board, dea­cons and dea­coness and el­ders’ coun­cils for con­fronting the pas­tor who in­de­cently ha­rassed his wife and re­port­ing him to the po­lice.

How­ever, the church lead­er­ship said the lawyer’s hus­band was be­ing si­lenced for dis­rupt­ing church ac­tiv­i­ties and per­pe­trat­ing vi­o­lence.—@mash­nets.

Dr Ig­natius Chombo

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