THE power struggle and alleged tribalism war rocking the Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa International (AFM) in Lobengula, Bulawayo, took a new twist yesterday with a faction blasting the church overseer’s lawyer of being an interested party and for acting like a magistrate in court.
The aggrieved applicants, who were being represented by a church member, Claudious Manamela, had filed an application last week seeking for a protection order against the overseer Tony Tshuma and 40 of his followers.
The application was filed before magistrate Tancy Dube at the Western Commonage Magistrates’ Court a few days after it was reported that the church was plagued by disaffection caused by alleged ethnic wars between Ndebele-speaking worshippers and their Shona-speaking counterparts.
Tshuma, who is being represented by lawyer Walter Nyabadza of Majoko and Majoko, is accused of threatening those against his leadership with either death or expulsion. The overseer also allegedly grabbed the church-owned Lydead Range Farm in Gwanda.
The disenchanted group also accused Tshuma of fraudulently taking over the reins of the church in 2008 and abusing church funds.
Yesterday, the magistrate called Nyabadza and Manamela into her chambers where they both presented their papers.
However, Nyabadza had already served Manamela with his client’s plea in bar/abatement indicating that the court was not competent to hear the matter.
He said only the High Court was eligible to handle class action cases.
“Further that the deponent to the applicants’ founding affidavit does not have locus standi in judicio (the right to bring case to court)in that the wrong complained of does not adversely affect him personally, but allegedly the class of persons collectively. Similarly, the relief being sought by him is in the interest of the said class of persons collectively and not in his own personal interest,” Nyabadza said.
Nyabadza prayed for his special plea to be allowed with cost on a punitive scale.
“Assuming, however, that the special plea does not find favour with the court and to enable him to plead, the respondent hereby applies for the following further particulars to the applicants’ affidavit; when and at which branch of the church did the deponent become a member of the church; when did the deponent become based at the church’s headquarters at stand number 70473 Lobengula Extension 4,” Nyabadza submitted.
He also demanded to know when the respondent incited anyone to engage in violence.
In response, Manamela and his group accused Nyabadza of being an interested party in the case saying he was a member of the church doubling up as a lawyer for the overseer and his group.
“On Feberuary 8 2014, Nyabadza who was drawn into the ministers’ meeting as an attorney to advise on legal issues concerning the church constitution became the magistrate himself,” said Manamela.
“Based on the information he did not validate, he declared the 2008 and 2012 constitutions null and void. Consequently, reverend Tshuma was utterly removed from leadership due to nullification of the constitution that put him in power and upon being cautioned by Nyabadza he accepted to be removed.”
Manamela submitted that Nyabadza also removed the 28 members of the council of elders replacing them with 18 members.
“The lawyer Nyabadza, who is also a member of the church, knows well that he instituted legal proceedings against three ministers at (the) High Court. As a result, Tshuma scolds certain brethren across the congregation.
“The court should note that Nyabadza questioned the jurisdiction of this court to our surprise and we wonder if his reading of the law is above the capacity of legal officers who received this plea for protection from all abuses that violate our basic rights,” he submitted.
Manamela charged that Tshuma had repeatedly pronounced those who did not agree with him as Satanists who must die. He said loyalists acting on his instructions or insinuations have verbally and physically threatened and even produced lists of those who should be fired from the church.
“We are persuaded to have the notion that there is total disregard for our freedom to worship without interference. Naturally all reasonable people understand that Nyabadza and his client were not supposed to be labouring to block a protection order application if they are harmless to our basic rights at law. Individually we pray that the court grants us a plea,” he argued.
Manamela submitted that Tshuma had been inciting members of his faction to engage in violence threatening him and his group physically since February 23 2014.
The magistrate advised Manamela and his group to file their application for a protection order as individuals and not select an individual to stand for them.
Manamela said they would file the applications soon after the Easter Holiday.