SOME police officers from Marlborough police station in Harare have been accused of siding with the Apostolic African Mission (AFM) church faction led by Bishop Cossam Chiyangwa, after they allegedly sat on a docket of one of his lieutenants.
The individual is accused of firing gunshots at a church in Westgate last month, as the dispute over control of the church turned violent.
Gunshots were fired at AFM Faith Alive Assembly after Bishop Chiyangwa allegedly sent his Deacon, Thomas Gwatidzo, and other men to try and wrestle the church from his rival, Bishop Amon Madawo’s followers.
Gwatidzo reportedly fired shots at a guard from a local company, who had been contracted by Reverend Madawo’s faction to guard the church, after he and his group failed to forcibly take over the church premises.
The matter was reported to the police by the Bishop Madawo faction, and reports say no arrests have been made although a docket was opened for Gwatidzo and his accomplices.
Reports from the Bishop Madawo camp are that some police officers, especially the officer-in-charge at Marlborough, are reluctant to act on the matter.
However, national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, said the cases are in the hands of the National Prosecution Authority as both factions reported each other to the police.
“You remember that there were two dockets as the factions counter reported each other. One of the dockets is coming to court on 26 January next year, and the parties will be summoned.
“However, the other one is still in the hands of the prosecution for further handling. It’s untrue that the police are sitting on the cases,” he said.
“We want to appeal to the AFM people to do whatever they are doing lawfully. This is our message to the warring factions. Police will not hesitate to arrest them if they do their things unlawfully”.
Contacted for comment, Bishop Madawo said contrary to what the police are saying, they never received any update on the case since the day they reported the matter.
“You can inquire about that from the officer-in-charge Malborough police station. We made a report and there’s nothing we have heard since then,” Bishop Madawo said.
Bishop Chiyangwa said he has nothing to do with police work.
“I have nothing to do with the police. I don’t work for the police. I only wait to be called since they are the ones who made a report to the police,” he said.
“The church belongs to God. Why should I fight. God fights for himself. I am relaxed at home and I have nothing to say to the police about their work.”
The shooting incident allegedly took place on November 12 around 1.46am, a few hours after Bishop Chiyangwa had lost another legal battle. The High Court had ruled the previous day that he should vacate the church’s Westgate property that he and his followers forcibly took in October.
Reports are that after losing the court case, Bishop Chiyangwa allegedly hired some gunmen to go to the premises to forcibly take the property from the Bishop Madawo faction.
Bishop Chiyangwa and Bishop Madawo are embroiled in a bitter wrangle over control of the church and assets following the retirement of church president, Bishop Aspher Madziyire, in 2018 and his subsequent replacement by Bishop Madawo.
However, Bishop Chiyangwa and his followers disputed Bishop Madawo’s ascension, and the matter spilt into the courts.
The battle over the control of the church was settled in favour of Bishop Madawo and his followers when the Supreme Court in May this year upheld an earlier High Court ruling and agreed that the 2018 meeting, which purported to change the leadership, was void.
However, the group loyal to Bishop Chiyangwa, whose appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court, announced they will form another church under the AFM International banner, but will continue occupying the church property until they are legally evicted.
Following a Supreme Court ruling that he was an illegitimate leader, Bishop Chiyangwa, a former deputy president of AFM, left the church to form another one.
However, last month, together with his followers, they forcibly took the church’s Westgate property and started conducting church services.
AFM filed an urgent application at the High Court for spoliation seeking to restore possession of the property.
Justice Amy Tsanga granted the application and ordered Bishop Chiyangwa to meet the costs of the litigation.
“The respondent (Chiyangwa) and all those who claim occupation and possession of the property known as 696 New Adylin, Westgate, Harare, be and are hereby ordered to restore possession of the property to the applicant (AFM) upon service of this order, failing which the Sheriff be and is hereby authorised to asset the applicant to recover vacant possession thereof,” she ordered.
In her ruling, the Judge said evidence from Bishop Chiyangwa’s own averments in his notice of opposition and submissions by his legal counsel, clearly showed that he was unhappy with the Supreme Court decision because it did not address the issue of possession and ownership of the premises.
Bishop Chiyangwa had sought to justify possession of the church premises on the basis that possession should be looked at differently when it comes to church property.
However, his assertion was rebuffed by Justice Tsanga who said self-help was contrary to the rule of law.
“The fact that the respondent managed to take over the premises on October 10 by force of numbers before breaking the gate lock on October 11 in fact points to forceful dispossession,” Justice Tsanga said.