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AFM church wrangle takes new twist

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THE battle for property belonging to the Lobengula-headquartered Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) took a new twist yesterday, as the faction led by reverend Clement Nyathi filed an application seeking to bar church president and overseer reverend Tony Tshuma and his group from accessing church assets.

SILAS NKALA
STAFF REPORTER

The group seeks to evict Tshuma from the church house.

Nyathi and his group filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court, which was thronged by church members from both factions to a point where they failed to fit inside the court gallery prompting many of them to remain outside.

The two parties yesterday appeared before Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva, who was expected to pass judgment on the matter.

But Takuva reserved judgment after Tshuma and his group had asked the court to allow them another chance of filing opposition papers, after they had earlier on failed to file them within the stipulated period.

Tshuma and his group had failed to enter opposition to defend on time.

Tshuma through his lawyers, had asked the court to allow them to file their opposition papers concerning the matter.

Nyathi’s lawyer Norman Mugiya said: “We were seeking to bar them from accessing church assets and the church itself and bar them from acting as church leaders or affiliates and surrender all assets to the church.

“We stated that the default bishop must leave our house and surrender it to my clients”.

Mugiya said they had raised the points in limine that Tshuma and his group must not be heard because they did not comply with the court’s rules in their attempt to oppose his clients’ application.

“Technically, they must not oppose our application,” he said.

Tshuma’s lawyers refused to talk to the media, saying they will only be able to do so when the case has been finalised.

In his earlier application, which he won at the High Court, Nyathi was granted an urgent interdict barring Tshuma from disposing of church properties and personalising them.

The application was heard by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese.

In his founding affidavit, Nyathi submitted that AFM had internal problems and claimed Tshuma broke away from the church declaring himself as president and overseer for the breakaway group.

“These problems had been on-going for over six years, which led to the respondent filing a court application before this court, case number HC540/14, so that this court could declare him duly appointed head of AFM,” Nyathi submitted.

He said Tshuma and his team had been disposing of church assets and transferring other church properties into different names so that by the time the court makes a determination on the status of the church leadership, he would have hidden a lot of properties.

“On August 10 2014 the respondents sold eight beasts from the church farm so that he could fund his group’s church camp meeting,” Nyathi submitted.

“This comes after he sold another six beasts in July this year to fund his personal needs.

“The respondent is attempting to register church vehicles, which are under his custody into his individual name and into his wife’s name so that they appear as if they are personal vehicles.”

Nyathi said Tshuma was barring him and others from conducting services at the church situated at number 70473 Indonsakusa and Nyambezana roads in Lobengula Extension 4 in Bulawayo, the church headquarters.

He said Tshuma claimed the church was headquartered on his personal property yet it belonged to the church.

Makonese ordered both groups led by Nyathi and Tshuma to stop using and disposing of the said properties or transferring them into other names.

“The applicants (Nyathi and AFM) and respondent (Tshuma) are barred from using and disposing the first applicant (church) property or transferring them to any form or manner whatsoever pending the finalisation of the matters pending in this honourable court,” he ruled.

The current application comes after the Supreme Court in February dismissed Tshuma’s application seeking to nullify the Bulawayo High Court ruling, where it was ruled that the troubled leader was not the church’s legitimate leader on grounds that he was not properly elected to hold office.

Judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo had last year ruled that Tshuma was not constitutionally elected, hence he and his group filed a Supreme Court appeal seeking the setting aside of the ruling, but they failed to inspect documents as stipulated at law within given days prompting the Supreme Court to throw their application away.

So far Tshuma and his group have lost three cases.

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