Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe has suspended a senior pastor who has served the church for more than 35 years because he had filed defamation lawsuits and criminal charges against church members.Pastor Josiah Garamukanwa, who was ordained in 1978, is bitter about the “harsh” decision that he says was unwarranted.
He is now challenging the decision, arguing that instituting legal proceedings was his right and that he should enjoy the right to protection of the law like any other citizen.
Pastor Garamukanwa clashed with some church members at Kuwadzana Phase 3 Assembly in Harare last year who raised complaints against him in correspondences to the church’s provincial leadership.
The church members accused him of going for some months without preaching, conducting church business without following a fixed timetable and hand-picking preachers for the day without following any pre-planned roster.
It was also the church members’ complaint that the pastor was imposed on them and that he had not been preaching at the church for some time.
The statements were contained in letters and correspondences to the church’s provincial leadership.
Pastor Garamukanwa felt offended by some of the allegations and complaints raised and he filed a defamation lawsuit against seven of the members at the High Court through his lawyers Warara and Associates.
He was transferred to Masiyarwa AFM assembly in Zvimba in December last year where he is stationed.
While at Zvimba, Pastor Garamukanwa says he reported to the police the case of theft of one of his goats and a church member was implicated. It is also argued that the pastor also raised complaints against the police officer who was handling the goat theft case.
He reported the policeman to his superiors.
To that end, the church’s Harare West provincial leader Reverend Cosam Chiyangwa wrote a letter of suspension to Pastor Garamukanwa.
Pastor Garamukanwa argued that the church was operating unreasonably by suspending him for asserting his rights.
“I cannot be suspended because I sued people who defamed my character,” he said. “I never committed any offence warranting suspension from office. I am entitled to protection of the law like any other citizen and reporting a case to the police or filing a lawsuit is not an offence.”
Pastor Garamukanwa’s lawyer Mr Charles Warara of Warara and Associates has challenged the suspension through a letter to the church leadership. Mr Warara argues that the issue of lawsuits had always been known and there was no basis for suspending him at this stage.
He also argues that reporting a criminal case to the police and complaining to senior police officers over the manner in which a particular case was being handled by junior officers was not an issue warranting a suspension.
On the case of Pastor Garamukanwa’s brother suing a church member, Mr Warara argued that the brother was an independent adult whose decisions to sue could not be interfered with. Mr Warara threatened to file a court application if the church refused to lift the suspension.
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