TBN in financial crisis, says CEO

Daily Dispatch, South Africa/February 4, 2008

So we can't refund mentally ill man's cash, he says Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the Bhisho-based Christian TV and radio station, cannot refund donations it received from a mentally ill diagnosed pensioner because it is allegedly running at a financial loss.

This is according to River Ministries' Andre Roebert, who is also chief executive of TBN Africa.

"TBN in Bhisho does not have that money," said Roebert during a meeting with the Daily Dispatch on Wednesday.

Last year the newspaper reported that the family of Manjo Maphuma, a former Gauteng police officer who now lives in Mdantsane and has been diagnosed with a mental illness, said TBN had rejected their calls that the money be repaid.

His wife, Nomathemba Zita, said her husband had been making numerous donations to TBN over seven years - including a R90000 cheque.

Maphuma was first diagnosed with paranoid psychosis in 1986 by Cecilia Makiwane Hospital psychiatrist Dr Tony Pentz.

Roebert, however, disputed this and said TBN's Bhisho board went to visit Maphuma to ask him what his status was and whether he wanted the money back. "He told us under no circumstances do you give the money back. It was a gift to TBN."

This week, Zita said that she was struggling to maintain their two children, who are both students, on her R2000 a month salary. She has since approached the Legal Aid Board to have a curator appointed who could handle her husband's financial affairs.

River Ministries' financial director, Greg Clur, said if TBN - a Section 21 company for non-profit - returned the money to Maphuma it could contravene both income tax and company laws. However, tax experts at PriceWaterhouseCoopers told the Daily Dispatch that a Section 21 company was exempted from paying tax and could repay the money without any tax implications.

Roebert said returning the money could also have other moral implications for a body such as the church. He said people who made earlier donations and later fell onto hard times may ask for their money back.

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