UNITED Family International Church (UFIC) leader, Emmanuel Makandiwa (pictured) and his wife, Ruth, who are embroiled in a $6,5 million lawsuit over an alleged false prophecy, have been ordered to defend themselves.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Makandiwa and his wife were, last year, slapped with the lawsuit by their congregants, a couple, Upenyu and Blessing Mashangwa, who claimed to have fallen prey to a prophecy that promised them a “debt cancellation miracle”.
Makandiwa and his wife, through their lawyer, Lewis Uriri, filed an exception application in September last year, urging the court to decline entertaining the matter, arguing secular courts could not deal with matters of faith and church practice and doctrine.
But, High Court judge, Justice David Mangota dismissed the Makandiwas’ application, saying the Mashangwas’ claims against the UFIC leaders were grounded in alleged fraudulent activities and not in contract.
“The plaintiffs’ (Mashangwa and his wife) case in regard to the four claims is watertight,” Justice Mangota said.
“There is nothing which is vague and/or embarrassing in each of those claims.
“Their cause of action for each is clear, cogent and to the point.
“The claims fall neatly into the delict (wrongful act) of fraud.
“They are neither frivolous nor vexatious.
“…In the premise, it is ordered that the defendants’ (Makandiwa, Ruth and UFIC) exception in regard to all the six claims be and is, hereby, dismissed with costs.”
The plaintiffs were granted leave to amend their declaration and prayer in regard to claims five and six within 10 days.
While comparing the Makandiwas’ litigation to the case of incarcerated End Time Message leader, Robert Martin Gumbura, who is serving a 40-year jail term for sexually assaulting his female congregants, Justice Mangota said “every person is fallible”.
“Two important matters come out of the above-cited case,” he said.
“The first is that every person is infallible.
“No one is, therefore, immune to making mistakes.
“That is so notwithstanding the person’s social standing, spiritual or otherwise, in society.
“The second is that, where one commits a crime or a wrong (ie delict), the person cannot escape the long arm of the law.
“He will either be prosecuted or sued, depending on what he is alleged to have done.
“Applying the above-observed matters to the current case, therefore, the defendants cannot be allowed to hide behind the proposition that their situation relates to ecclesiastical matters, which the court has no jurisdiction to determine.
“All the three defendants were properly sued. The first two’s (Makandiwa and wife) suit lies in the statements, which they made (while) the suit of the third defendant (UFIC) hinges on the fact that it connected plaintiffs’ to the defendants.
“The bond, which the plaintiffs created with the first two defendants emanates from the fact that the plaintiffs became members of the third defendant in which the first and second defendants were/are leaders.”
In their lawsuit, Mashangwa and his wife claimed that sometime in 2012, Makandiwa misrepresented in his prophecy that they would encounter a “debt cancellation miracle” before encouraging them to continue giving to the church.
But, as time went by, the couple said their Marlborough house in Harare was attached and sold for $500 000 instead of $700 000, among other losses which they encountered later.
Mashangwa and his wife were represented by Thabani Mpofu.