HARARE – United Family International Church (UFIC) leader Emmanuel Makandiwa has said former congregants demanding $6,5 million from him and his wife Ruth for alleged “fake prophecies, fraud and defamation” have no cause of action, adding that a secular court cannot be invited to rule on faith issues.
This comes after Harare-based businessman Upenyu Mashangwa and his spouse, Blessing, through their lawyer Jonathan Samukange, filed a lawsuit at the High Court, in which they cited Makandiwa, his wife and the church as respondents.
The Mashangwas alleged in court papers that Makandiwa in 2012 misrepresented that they would encounter a “debt cancellation miracle” before encouraging them to continue giving to the church.
But, the couple’s house in Marlborough in Harare was later attached and sold for $500 000 instead of $700 000 and are demanding the same amount from Makandiwa.
However, Makandiwa, through his lawyer Lewis Uriri from The Temple Bar, said in his heads of argument the claim is embarrassing and is not premised on any cause of action.
“The plaintiffs (Mashangwas) did not plead undue influence or duress to influence paying varying sums being contributions to any of the defendants (Makandiwas).
“In other words, the plaintiffs are seeking to invite a secular court to inquire into matters of faith and the observance thereof being matters in respect of which a secular court is not equipped to inquire into.
“The present application is in substance an ecclesiastic dispute to which ‘neutral principles of law’ does not apply.
“In the form it has been launched, the present application necessarily requires an inquiry into matter of faith, church practice and doctrine,” the court heard.
The Mashangwas in their application claimed that “when making the representations, first defendant (Makandiwa) and second defendant (Ruth) knew that it was, in fact, false and fraudulent.”
They are also demanding $1,7 million from Makandiwa, accusing him of recommending a de-registered lawyer to them who reportedly duped them.
But Makandiwa said, “There is no plea that the alleged misrepresentations were directed at the plaintiffs with the intention that they act thereon and that they were induced to act thereon.
“There is no pleaded nexus between the alleged statement, the conduct of the plaintiffs and the alleged resultant loss.”
The Mashangwas are also demanding $2 million compensation, claiming their name was used to advance Makandiwa’s interests, adding that he also defamed them using newspaper articles.
They further claimed that they made several contributions to Makandiwa’s church hoping to reap rewards.
However, Makandiwa has rubbished the claims.
“This claim is not only frivolous and vexatious, but it is also vague and embarrassing in as much as it is bad in law and does not disclose a cognisable cause of action,” the court heard.
The matter is still pending before the High Court.