International Pentecostal Holiness Church outside the high court in Pretoria in 2016
  • Sanlam has signed up the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), probably South Africa's second largest church group.
  • It is already doing roaring business with the biggest church in the country, the Zionist Christian Church.
  • But the IPHC is in the middle of a nasty struggle for control of its enormous riches.

Its funeral-cover business Sanlam Sky had "secured" a contract with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC) in July 2017, parent company Sanlam disclosed in an annual report on Thursday.

Sanlam estimates that the church has 1.5 million active church-going members, "and is believed to be the second-biggest church organisation in South Africa".

Other estimates of IPHC membership range as high as three million.

The church is considered to have such political power that its Zuurbekom headquarters was opened by then President FW de Klerk in 1991, and it was joined in worship by then President Jacob Zuma in 2009.

Churches – and one church in particular – have proven lucrative for Sanlam. Its deal with the country's largest religious organisation, the Zionist Christian Church (ZCC) had been extended for three years, Sanlam disclosed in the same annual report.

Elsewhere in the report it gave the barest glimpse of what the ZCC deal means for it, though without providing hard numbers.

Its recurring premium sales had increased by 26%, Sanlam said. Excluding the ZCC deal, that increase would have been 9% instead.

That seems to bode well with for its contract with the IPHC. There is just one problem: the IPHC is in the middle of a nasty fight for control.

An International Pentecostal Holiness Church mass wedding in 2014

The church has been troubled since the death of its leader Clayton Modise two years ago. There was a dramatic battle over his estate (complete with lurid allegations) and an attempt to split the church. In December 2017 the legal side of the battle saw allegations that R115 million in cash had disappeared from its Zuurbekom offices – and that another R110 million had been diverted out of church accounts.

Sanlam did not say with which part of the still-feuding church it was doing business.

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