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Church dispute rages on

by Staff reporter
01 Sep 2018 at 08:56hrs | Views
THE United Pentecostal Church in Zimbabwe (UPCZ) has approached the High Court seeking an order interdicting a breakaway group from disrupting church activities and harassing congregants pending an appeal lodged by the same breakaway group at the Supreme Court.

UPCZ through its lawyer, Mr Liberty Mcijo of Liberty Mcijo and Associates, filed an application for leave to execute a judgment by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese pending an appeal by the rival group.

In papers before the court, the church, which is being represented by its national superintendent Reverend Clifford Makandise, cited three leaders of the breakaway group Reverends Samuel Mugwiji, Edward Fish Gwebu, Pride Nhokwara, the officer-in-charge of Magwegwe Police Station and the Sheriff of the High Court, as respondents. The church was in June given the green light by Justice Makonese to stop members of the breakaway group from accessing its buildings situated at New Lobengula suburb in Bulawayo and Eastlea in Harare.

The rival camp then filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court challenging the High Court ruling. In their grounds of appeal, the appellants Reverends Mugwiji, Gwebu and Nhokwara citing UPCZ as the respondent, said Justice Makonese erred and misdirected himself by making a finding that Rev Makandise had locus standi to institute legal proceedings on behalf of the church. They argued that the church constitution did not empower and authorise Rev Makandise to be the deponent of the founding affidavit. They also argued that there was no evidence placed before the court pointing to the fact that their camp was rebellious and violating the founding principles of the church.

Rev Makandise, in his founding affidavit, said the application for leave to execute the judgment of the High Court is premised on the fact that the appeal by the rival camp lacks merit. He argued that he was empowered to exceed any deeds or documents necessary to protect the properties of the church. Rev Makandise said his rivals convened an unsanctioned special general meeting in violation of the church constitution. "There is no doubt whatsoever that the requirements for the granting of an interdict were satisfied. "By unlawfully usurping the functions of the national board, the respondents were actually infringing upon a clear right of the church and the board from carrying out its obligations for the benefit of the church," he said. Rev Makandise said if not granted the order on an urgent basis, the respondents were likely to continue abusing church properties, disrupting church services and harassing congregants.

He said the three respondents were part of the leadership of the breakaway group which caused violent skirmishes and disrupted the church's Easter Conference in Kwekwe in April resulting in the intervention ofanti-riot police and the Zimbabwe National Army. Rev Makandise said the respondents working in cahoots with an "errant" pastor, Reverend Antony Wungano Nyandoro, led a group of church members who sought to unconstitutionally replace the church's national board and executive board. He also accused the respondents of creating parallel structures within the church and causing unlawful and disorderly behaviour by refusing to attend a disciplinary hearing, which subsequently led to their ex-communication from church and ministerial duties.

The respondents, in their opposing papers filed through Mr Kholwani Ngwenya of TJ Mabhikwa and Partners, said the applicant made bare and unsubstantiated claims by alleging that they were abusing the church properties and disrupting services. Rev Gwebu said the application is an abuse of court processes by the applicant.

"The deponent (Rev Makandise) is clearly being economic with the truth and trying to mislead this honourable court. He does not state how the respondents are abusing church properties, let alone disrupting the smooth functions of the church processes and harassing congregants. The allegations are bald and I pray for the dismissal of the applicant's application for leave to execute pending appeal with costs," he said.

Rev Gwebu also contended that Rev Makandise purported to act on behalf of the church on the basis of a fake resolution passed at a meeting held on February 27 last year in Kwekwe. He also challenged the legality of the church constitution, saying it was never signed and adopted by all members of the board.

During the church's Easter Conference in April, the ZRP and ZNA provided security to quell the threat of violence. The church is mired in leadership disputes that have resulted in several court cases at the High Court in Bulawayo and Harare.

Source - chronicle