By Tendai Kamhungira
HARARE – The High Court has ordered Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church (UFIC) to stop its construction and expansion works at its Chitungwiza church that had encroached into two adjacent stands.
While the popular preacher’s movement claims to have acquired the disputed land for $730 000, Justice Happious Zhou concurred with Tinashe Mutarisi’s urgent application that the colossal structure was encroaching into stands number 19774 and 19775.
“The first respondent (UFIC)’s contention is that the matter is not urgent because it has been building on the land for over two years,” the ruling says.
“But the urgency arises from encroachment onto the property, which is the subject of the applicant’s rights, a fact which only arose when the applicant noticed the interference on 27 October 2012,” Zhou added.
Mutarisi, who has also cited the Chitungwiza Municipality as a second respondent, claims to be the legitimate owner of the land by virtue of a lease agreement between him and the troubled municipality.
The Chitungwiza resident says he took action after seeing UFIC construction workers clearing the land without his authority, thus leading to the High Court granting him an interim relief for the church to stop interfering with his properties.
On the other hand, Makandiwa’s church had argued that Mutarisi’s court action was not only “dubious”, but also not urgent as it has been working on the land or site for the past two years.
“The copy of the electronic money transfer form attached to the opposing papers shows that payment of what is stated as the purchase price in the sum of US$730 000. 00 was made on 2 November 2012, a day after the urgent application was filed,” Zhou noted.
“It is trite that an ordinary agreement of sale merely creates personal rights between the seller and the purchaser. The respondent (UFIC) has no real rights over the property by the mere fact of having paid the purchase price,” he said.
Although Chitungwiza Municipality director of urban planning and services Conrad Muchesa claimed in his affidavit that Mutarisi’s allocated land was “fictitious, and non-existent”, he however, admitted that his council had a valid agreement with the applicant.
In this regard, Zhou has ordered the fast-growing church to stop carrying out any further developments that encroach or disrupt the Chitungwiza businessman’s operations.
The development comes as Makandiwa’s group has been in and out of court over the 30 000-seater church, specifically the acquisition of the land from the Chitungwiza Town Council.
In recent months, Movement for Democratic Change legislator Alexio Musundire has lost another High Court challenge over the stoppage and demolition of the multi-million dollar structure.
In his key arguments, Musundire said that the land had been unprocedurally acquired and it had been reserved for a hotel, a stadium and other social amenities. However, High Court Judge Justice Tedious Karwi dismissed the application for lack of urgency.
A magnetic and charismatic preacher, Makandiwa has emerged as one of Zimbabwe’s most influential characters.
Through his UFIC movement, the UFIC founder has won many admirers and critics through his sermons, and prophecies to a point that he has even been invited in the region to minister to people or individuals like Nelson Mandela.
In recent times, the 35-year-old churchman has not only built quite a significant brand and empire, but also a pioneer and market leader in many things.
Earlier this year, the lanky preacher unveiled a 61-piece Italian-made public system to power his ministry and is also in line to launch a monthly magazine called The Family.
Such is the “prosperity gospel” man’s rise to power and super-stardom that he even lives a comfortable life — a forte once dominated by the old order of Pentecostal church founders, including Matthew Ashimolowo and Celebration International Church pastor Tom Deuschle. -Daily News