Earlier in August the United Family International Church founder Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and his wife, Ruth, were sued for US$6,5 million over alleged fake prophecies, fraud and defamation, by a Harare-based businessman Mr U.Mashangwa and his spouse.
In the presented case the Mashangwa, who are ex-UFIC members alleged that in 2012 Prophet Makandiwa ‘misrepresented’ that they would encounter a debt cancellation miracle and encouraged them to continue ‘seeding’ to the church.
The court papers read,
“When making the representations, first defendant (Prophet Makandiwa) and second defendant (Prophetess Ruth Makandiwa) knew that it was, in fact, false and fraudulent. When the first and second defendants made the representations, they intended the plaintiffs to act thereon and in the result, increase on their monetary contributions to first, second and third defendants.”
In the suit, it was also told that the Mashangwas wanted the prophetic couple to pay them US$1,7 million for recommending a de-registered lawyer who was to dupe them. It is said that Prophet prophesied during a UFIC church service that Mr Tichaona Mawere was a brilliant lawyer who would never lose a case. In the following week, he allegedly advised the couple to engage Mr Mawere in their frantic bid to recover US$1,7 million from money lender McDowell International.
Mr Mawere failed to win the case, resulting in the Mashangwas hiring another attorney who then won the case at the Supreme Court. However, the US$1,7 million could not be reimbursed as McDowell International was placed under provisional liquidation at the time Mr Mawere was “playing court games with fake High Court orders”.
Mr Mawere allegedly duped Mr and Mrs Mashangwa into paying US$37 000 in “legal fees”. The court papers read,
“When making these representations, First and Second Defendants knew it to be false in that the said Tichaona Mawere was, in fact, not a registered lawyer and, therefore, he was not competent to represent anyone.”
According to the court documents, Mr and Mrs Mashangwa gave US$1,1 million to Prophet Makandiwa and his church between 2011 and 2016. Timeously, it is alleged, Prophet Makandiwa would invite the millionaires before the congregation, parading them as examples of success among the flock. A round-up of the sums the couple is said to have contributed to the Makandiwas and UFIC monthly ranges between US$1 000 and US$25 000, with the Prophet promising them commensurate benefits.
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.
However, Makandiwa, through his representative Lewis Uriri responded to the suit, saying in his heads of argument the claim is embarrassing and is not premised on any cause of action. In a court hearing held in September, the defendant issued:
“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..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.’
As it stands, the matter is pending before the High Court.
Now back to the crux, this lawsuit stirred a big conversation on the art of prophecy and seership, and its role as an infallible, & unimpeachable divine institution of the deity. Prophets, by their nature are ‘always right’ in our christian sense and they can say stuff, even the most ridiculous and unbelievable of all, and because we are ‘believers’ we are bound to believe. It doesn’t really matter whether it come to pass or not, because odds are that in the case of something not happening they might say we lacked enough faith in God. They might not usually remind us, but we all know that these prophecies comes with visible and invisible conditions.
The suit also raised questions like should believers, who acting thereof upon the basis of their own faith, and understanding of divinity sue their prophets in the event of unfulfilled prophecies.
In this case, this couple went to a church looking for solace, and the Prophet, with his wife’s support, and under their influence declared that the big due the family ought to pay was going to be miraculously cancelled. Wherever they got their information from, you agreed and that makes this a very clear understanding between two parties. It matters less whether you go around prying about it calling it hypnosis or the mumble jumbo of the mind, you had a choice to not believe and walk away, but you chose to consent. Excuse us if we lack proper legal etiquette and understanding, but that is not fraudulent, you’re just a mere victim of blind religious fanaticism which claimed the lives of so many figures, biblical or outside.
And another problem that arises with this lawsuit and many other of its kind is that they has no value in a Zimbabwean society. The country does not have an autonomous Ministry of Religion which in this case could be weighing on these matters of heart and faith. What we just have is a constitutional clause that issues religious freedom as part of the fundamental freedoms to be protected, and that allows the practice of any kind of faith in the country as long as it poses no harm on humanity.
So here is our little advise, as christian we believe at our own risk and because it will always be like this it is therefore upon us to consciously decides what’s good and what’s bad for us… and whatever the outcome, we need to bear that on ourselves because we made the choice in the first place.