Tithing is a well-known Biblical concept. But the donation that Manjo Maphuma’s family claims he gave to Trinity Broadcasting Network appears to have exceeded donating a tenth of one’s income to the church.
According to the Maphuma family, the former policeman, who has a medically diagnosed mental illness, gave away his pension over a seven-year period.
Now some might say that Maphuma was within his rights to do so. He found succour in the teachings of the televised sermons and heard the network’s call for money.
But, is it morally right and justified to take and keep money from a man certified as suffering from schizo-affective behaviour — an illness that affects the person’s ability to make reasonable decisions?
Bernard Roebert, CEO of River Ministries Corporation, the company that controls the television network, through his lawyers has denied ever being asked for the money to be returned.
But our story chronicles numerous requests for Maphuma’s donations to be returned, including one from a Mdantsane court controlling officer who was told the former police officer’s wife would have to get a court order to force Roebert to give the money back.
When Maphuma’s wife, Zita, attempted to contact Roebert, he ignored her.
Why would a man of the church ignore the calls from a concerned member’s wife?
Surely it is reasonable to have expected Roebert to show a level of compassion and care for those around him — particularly for someone who had donated life savings of almost R200000.
And, why ignore the fact that the donor has a medically proven condition that impairs his ability to make reasonable judgments?
There are those who believe in tithing or donating money to the religious institution to which they belong.
But there is a fine line between tithing and leaving those who give with nothing at all.
Elsewhere in the newspaper we chronicle the remarkable reach and wealth of Roebert, which stretches to include a luxury home on the Port Alfred Marina, Halyards Hotel and East London’s River Air Charter Services.
There are, of course, other churches in South Africa and across the world that have become business empires.
In Gauteng, Ray McCauley has a significant business around Rhema Church.
Like the Vatican with its extensive businesses, the latter-day charismatic churches, with their accompanying empires, are cloaked in secrecy.
The manner in which Trinity and Roebert dealt with the Maphuma family raises uncomfortable questions about this church, its ethics and its preaching.