A well-known pastor who was forced to flee from his parish after he allegedly defrauded a church member of $800 in the name of blessing the money had a lucky break as he was finally busted and arraigned before a Guruve magistrate last week, a Newsday report has revealed.
The details of the story are that Themba Smart (32), a man of the cloth at the Apostle Debo Adeleye-led Life Embassy Ministries of Lucknow Farm, Mvurwi (Mashonaland Central) who has been on the run for the past two years pleaded not guilty to the charge before magistrate Artwell Sanyatwe.
He was remanded in custody to June 13.
The State alleges that sometime in June 2017, while at Mvurwi Community Hall, the man of cloth told complainant Jowell Chirenje (46) to give him the money he wanted to use to buy cattle so that it could be “blessed” and returned at the next Sunday service.
Chirenje complied and waited for his blessed money the next Sunday, but the pastor was never seen in the area again after moving to an unknown place.
The complainant filed a police report and Smart was put on the police wanted list, leading to his arrest last week.
Carson Kundiona represented the State.
Cases of clerics appearing before courts on charges of defrauding their followers under the guise of blessing them and attempting to run away have escalated from being infrequent to the order of the day.
In 2015, Spirit Embassy Ministries founder Prophet Uebert Angel fled the country after the police sought to interrogate him on allegations that he defrauded a Harare businessman of his vehicle, a Bentley worth $300 000.
It was alleged that Angel convinced the man to surrender his Bentley as a way of sowing a seed into his life, but the “Man of God” immediately sold the vehicle just after receiving it despite having promised him to take it back if he failed to reap the promised harvest within the stipulated period.
In 2017, the United Family International Church (UFIC) power couple Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and his wife, Ruth were dragged to court by former congregants Upenyu Mashangwa and wife Blessing, after the latter allegedly fell prey to a prophecy which promised them a “debt cancellation miracle”.
The court heard that prophet Makandiwa, accessorised by his wife, told the business couple that their US$500 000 bank loan would be cancelled in a debt cancellation miracle and encouraged them to continue “seeding” to UFIC in offerings and tithes, allegedly using the money they meant to repay the bank with.
Regrettably, the debt-clearing marvel as proclaimed by the UFIC clerics did not materialise and the Mashangwas ended up losing their Marlborough house which was attached and sold for $500 000 instead of $700 000.
The couple is seeking a refund of their contributions to the church.
The Supreme Court is still reviewing the couples’ application.
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