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South African Supreme Court Calls for a New Election in the Trans-Orange Conference


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A five year legal controversy over the leadership of the Trans-Orange Conference in South Africa received clarification from the country’s Supreme Court on March 28. In a 44-page judgment, Ef Dippenaar, acting judge of the High Court, Johannesburg, ordered among other things that a new election be held for executive committee members and that the newly comprised committee should have a proportionate number of people representing both sides in the long standing dispute.

The division within the Trans-Orange Conference dates back to February 2013 when the Southern Africa Union called a special constituency meeting “to receive the report of the Diswilmar Farm TOC (West Rand District),” but then used the meeting as an occasion to remove the conference leadership, including the entire executive committee, and then elect new leaders and a new committee.

This election was disputed by those who were in office, resulting in two parallel conferences forming under the management of the respective executive committees, each claiming to be the only legitimate TOC executive. The churches in the conference got caught up in the dispute with various member churches supporting each of the rival groups.

In the order issued by Judge Dippenaar, the resolutions of the February 24, 2013 business meeting removing the existing executive committee and appointing a new executive committee were set aside as invalid. Also set aside were the subsequent resolutions that declared certain local churches not to be in regular standing based on their support of the rival faction.

The present executive committee of the Trans-Orange Conference was directed to convene a regular business session within four months for the election of a new executive committee in accordance with the conference constitution.  

Secondly, the committee was instructed to formulate and distribute to all member churches, including those that had been removed from regular standing, guidelines and instructions for the nomination of individuals to be considered for election.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be that the court ordered the new executive committee to be composed of a proportionate number of individuals from both sides of the controversy. This means the conference will need to identify the number of local member churches that support each of the factions.

Further, the committee has been tasked with including on the agenda a proposed mandate for the newly elected executive committee to list the steps taken by each of the parallel executive committees from February 2013 to date for review and possible ratification or dismissal and determining the appropriate mechanisms to do so.

On the Southern Africa Union Conference Facebook page, the judicial finding was noted in a single paragraph: “Today (28th March, 2018) judgment in the Trans-Orange Conference (TOC) review application was handed down. We have noted the judgment and it is receiving our prayerful attention.”

Of the five comments posted in response to the paragraph, three asked for an explanation of what this is about. Mkhokheli Ndlovu said, “Please use this opportunity to assume leadership and unite the conference. The truth has been ventilated sadly by worldly courts and not by the church leadership. Even so, it’s time to rebuild the mighty TOC.


Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

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