THE High Court has blocked a breakaway group involved in the United Pentecostal Church in Zimbabwe (UPCZ) leadership wrangle from using the church name and buildings as well as interrupting services and disrupting church activities.
The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese follows an urgent chamber application by UPCZ through their lawyer, Mr Liberty Mcijo of Liberty Mcijo and Associates.
In papers before the court, the church cited three leaders of the breakaway group, Reverends Samuel Mugwiji, Edward Fish Gwebu and Pride Nhokwara, as respondents.
The church sought an order stopping the respondents from accessing its buildings situated at New Lobengula suburb in Bulawayo and Eastlea in Harare.
The applicant also wanted the respondents to be interdicted from conducting demonstrations against the church leadership and members and using the church name. The trio is 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 of anti-riot police and the Zimbabwe National Army.
Justice Makonese ordered the respondents to stop attending and interrupting any proceedings conducted by the UPCZ.
“The respondents and all those acting under them or falling under them be and hereby interdicted from attending and interrupting any proceedings conducted by the applicant. The respondents and all those who act through them or fall under them be and hereby interdicted from using the applicant’s name known as United Pentecostal Church of Zimbabwe or its abbreviation (UPCZ),” ruled the judge.
In his founding affidavit, the church representative, Pastor Clifford 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.
“The respondents have created parallel structures within the church and have assumed the duties of the national board and regional presbyters by conducting and co-addressing board meetings in violation of Article V, Section 2(9) and Article V, Section 8 (2a-c) of the church constitution,” he said.
Pastor Makandise accused his rivals of gross mismanagement of church funds and usurping the functions of the executive board.
“The respondents have abused and continue to abuse the church building situated at New Lobengula in Bulawayo. They are also failing or neglecting to pay water bills and rates despite receiving rentals from tenants,” he said.
Pastor Makandise said despite causing unlawful and disorderly behaviour, the respondents refused to attend a disciplinary hearing, which subsequently led to their (respondents) ex-communication from church and ministerial duties.
The respondents through their lawyer, Mr Kholwani Ngwenya of TJ Mabhikwa and Partners, argued that the applicant is a church organisation, and thus an artificial legal person capable of suing and being sued on its own.
They contended that Pastor 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.
They also argued that Pastor Makandise had no authority to represent the church. The respondents also challenged the legality of the church constitution, saying it was never signed and adopted by all members of the board. The respondents also accused Pastor Makandise’s leadership of having allowed the Zimbabwe People First party to use a church property in Eastlea, arguing that it is in contravention of the church’s constitution which bars leasing of its property to political parties.
During the church’s Easter Conference in April, ZRP and ZNA provided security to quell the threat of violence. The church is mired in leadership disputes that have resulted in nine court cases at the High Court in Bulawayo and Harare.
In some of the cases, Pastor Makandise is the complainant while in others he is the defendant. In Bulawayo, he has a case against Rev Sabelo Gwebu and another case against Pastors Edward Gwebu, Mugwiji and Nkhokwara.
At the Harare High Court, he has cases against Pastor Mugwiji and Rev Nyandoro, another against Rev Nyandoro; and another against Pastors Innocent Toriro, Nkhokwara, Gwebu and Livious Moyo.