THERE was drama at the Bulawayo High Court yesterday when hundreds of Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) of Africa members besieged the court to support the church’s overseer and president Reverend Tony Tshuma in the ongoing leadership dispute.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
Tshuma and 25 of his ministers are embroiled in a bitter power struggle with one of the church pastors reverend Clement Nyathi who is leading a breakaway faction.
However, what caught the attention of the public and brought business around the High Court area along Herbert Chitepo Street between 8th and 9th Avenue to a standstill were the multitudes of church members in the court’s vicinity and the manner in which Tshuma arrived at court.
The 90-year-old was chauffeur-driven in a green Land Rover Discovery 4 with a convoy of flashy vehicles and multitudes of bodyguards. One could have mistaken the occasion for a high-powered government delegation because of the vehicles which formed Tshuma’s convoy.
Tshuma’s convoy was being led by a silver Mercedes-Benz E240 followed by his Land Rover Discovery 4 and then a Land Rover Discovery 3 and a number of Mercedes-Benz vehicles of all makes and colours. Some ex-Japanese vehicles were also part of the convoy. His smartly dressed bodyguards looked menacing and at one point directed other road users to make way for their convoy.
Tshuma was greeted by ululating and whistling church members when he arrived at the High Court.
The bespectacled Tshuma walked with the aid of a walking stick and was elegantly dressed in a blue suit, matching blue shirt and necktie.
He was assisted up the stairs into court by his bodyguards. After proceedings at around 1pm, Tshuma’s convoy raced through the streets in the same manner it had come heading to the church’s headquarters in New Lobengula where he held a briefing with his pastors.
The leadership dispute was heard by Judge Justice Maxwell Munodawafa Takuva in his chambers. Justice Takuva indefinitely reserved judgment in the matter.
Nyathi had made an urgent chamber application before the court seeking an interdict barring Tshuma and his ministers from conducting any church business as leaders of AFM pending the outcome of two other cases in the same court. Tshuma’s lawyer Walter Nyabadza yesterday said Justice Takuva reserved judgment after the matter was argued.
“Nyathi’s faction made their arguments through their lawyer Norman Mugiya of Mugiya and Macharaga Law Chambers from Harare and we also made our arguments,” he said.
“Justice Takuva then reserved his judgment and advised us that both parties would be advised by the Registrar of the High Court on the outcome of the judgment.”
Tshuma also told reporters at the church’s headquarters that Nyathi was once his appointed personal aide who interpreted his sermons in Mashonaland.
“I am the one who appointed him as a reverend and posted him to Chinhoyi,” he said. “After seeing that he had some misdemeanours in Chinhoyi I then posted him to Kwekwe.
“When he was in Kwekwe and after having studied me and got knowledge of how the church is run, he then turned against me and demanded to be the overseer and president of the church.”
Tshuma said he was one of the founding leaders of the church when the late Freedom Sengwayo’s father Morgan came to Bulawayo from Gweru to start his ministry in 1955.