High Court blocks AFMA evictions
THE High Court on Thurday blocked Reverend Clement Nyathi’s faction from evicting his rivals from the Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa (AFMA) buildings across the country.
Rev Nyathi sought to execute an order under case number HC HC2700/14 pending a Supreme Court appeal by a rival group led by Rev Elliot Ncube.
The two rival camps have for the past three years been locked in an acrimonious legal battle over the control of church property.
The late Rev Tony Tshuma who was the church overseer and leader of a camp opposed to Rev Nyathi, died in May and left a leadership vacuum in the trouble-ridden church whose headquarters is in Bulawayo’s Lobengula Extension suburb.
The ruling by Bulawayo High Court Justice Nicholas Mathonsi follows an urgent chamber application for stay of execution of an eviction order by Rev Ncube pending the determination of two Supreme Court appeals under SC351/15 and SC 389/15.
In papers before the court, Reverends Nyathi, Joseph Matongo, Abel Hele Mephulangogala, Phibion Manyowa and the Sheriff of High Court were cited as the respondents.
Rev Ncube, new leader of the faction that used to be led by Rev Tshuma and which controls most of the church property, argued that the eviction order under HC2700/14 and HC1669/15 had been automatically suspended by the noting of the Supreme Court appeal.
Justice Nokuthula Moyo last year interdicted Rev Ncube, the late Rev Tshuma and their agents from interfering, visiting or using the church building. She also ordered them to relinquish control of all church properties in the country.
Rev Tshuma then appealed at the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court postponed the matter last month pending the appointment of an executor of Rev Tshuma’s estate in terms of Section 44 of the Administration of Estates Act.
The law prohibits the suing or obtaining of a writ of execution after the death of a judgment debtor.
“Allowing execution to continue in all the circumstances of this matter would result in an injustice. This is a matter involving the split of a major church… and the basis upon which execution is sought is a default judgment which has been impugned,” said Justice Mathonsi.
The judge ruled that the court had a duty to regulate its process in such a way as to avoid confusion and anarchy.
“Evictions may mean that if the Supreme Court upholds the appeals there would be pain and suffering for a lot of people when the process is being reversed again. What accords with fairness and justice is to allow the status quo to remain until the appeals are finalised and therefore, in the judicious exercise of my discretion, I will stay execution,” ruled Justice Mathonsi.
Rev Nyathi said that Rev Ncube and his camp broke away and formed their church, the Apostolic Faith Church of Africa International.
Rev Nyathi further said he was duly appointed overseer and president in terms of the 1986 church constitution.
However, Rev Ncube argued that his rivals fraudulently amended the 1986 constitution of the church to facilitate the appointment of Rev Nyathi as leader.
Last year, congregants from rival camps fought running battles with police at the Lobengula Extension church as the struggle for the leadership of the church turned bloody.
Rev Nyathi accused Rev Tshuma of conniving with some ‘few misguided individuals’ to impose himself as the church leader soon after the death of its founder Rev Philemon Sibanda in 2008. The late Rev Sibanda broke away from the original Apostolic Faith Church in Pelandaba in 1985 with his sympathisers and formed their own church at Lobengula Extension, renaming it Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa. The Pelandaba church was founded by the late Rev Morgan Sengwayo in 1955.