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High court reverses AFM church evictions

by Staff reporter
18 Aug 2018 at 07:57hrs | Views
THE High Court yesterday reversed the illegal evictions of congregants from the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) of Portland Oregon in Southern Africa who were, together with their leader Reverend Richard Sibanda, ejected from church premises across the country.

The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese follows an urgent chamber application by Rev Sibanda, through his lawyer, Mr Zibusiso Ncube of Ncube and Partners.

Rev Sibanda sought an order suspending the execution of writs of execution, which resulted in the closure of some church buildings in selected towns and cities.

"It is ordered that the further execution of the writs of execution dated 6 August 2018 in the matter number HC1451/13 be and is hereby suspended. In the event that any eviction or removal has taken place, the same be and is hereby reversed so as to restore the status quo ante," ruled Justice Makonese.

In papers before the court, the AFM of Portland Oregon in Southern Africa and its US-based superintendent-general Rev Darrel Lee, were cited as respondents. In his founding affidavit, Rev Sibanda said despite a court order blocking the evictions, the Deputy Sheriff acting on orders of the respondents proceeded with the illegal evictions.

"The respondents, in the full knowledge of the order, proceeded to issue writs of execution and instructed the Sheriff to execute the same. The Sheriff served me with the writ, notices of removal, attachment and ejectment," he said.

Rev Sibanda said the actions of the respondents together with the Deputy Sheriff were designed to embarrass him.Thousands of congregants, some from as far as Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa who had come for a meeting, were on Friday last week ordered to vacate the church's headquarters building at Bulawayo's Pelandaba suburb by the Deputy Sheriff of the High Court acting on orders of the leader of the rival camp Mr Oniyas Gumbo.

Mr Gumbo's actions followed a recent Supreme Court ruling which barred Rev Sibanda from controlling the church properties after the parent church in Portland, Oregon, United States of America, suspended him in 2012.

The suspension was however, set aside by the High Court last week following an ex-parte urgent chamber application for a declaratur, which Rev Sibanda had filed challenging his six-year-old suspension pending the finalisation of the matter.

The High Court nullified the suspension and ruled that it was unlawful following Rev Sibanda's argument that his continued suspension for a period in excess of six years is ultra vires (beyond one's legal power or authority) in terms of the constitution of the church and that of the country.

He said his suspension was an act of persecution on his person by a few individuals aligned to the rival camp.

Rev Sibanda said he was first persecuted in 2005 when his rivals revolted against his leadership.

On Monday, church spokesperson, Mr Maurice Dube, said the evictions were illegal because they were extended to the generality of the church members including two board members, Reverends Luther Mateza and Julius Matope who were cited as respondents in the Supreme Court judgment.

According to the Supreme Court judgment delivered by Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, who was sitting with Justices Marie-Anne Gowora and Tendai Uchena, Rev Sibanda was ordered to immediately relinquish possession and use of all church properties both movable and immovable by virtue of his suspension.

The AFM of Portland Oregon has since 2005 been locked in a leadership dispute pitting a faction led by Rev Gumbo against the leadership of Rev Sibanda and three board members Reverends Matope, Mateza and the late Rev Jonah Munondo over control of the local chapter of the church.

The parent church in Portland, Oregon, which sympathises with Mr Gumbo's camp, accuses Rev Sibanda of seizing control of the local church.In 2011, Rev Lee, who is the head of the parent church, visited Zimbabwe and Rev Sibanda allegedly barred him from accessing church properties prompting the matter to spill to the courts.

The development led to further tension between the warring parties and in 2012 the parent church suspended Rev Sibanda from his position for allegedly breaching the cannons of the church and violating spiritual doctrines by continuously taking church matters to court.

Source - chroncile