AFM Wrangle Rages On As Factions Shift Turf To Trademark Rights

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE battle between Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (AFM) leader, Amon Madawo and his rival Cossam Chiangwa has resurfaced, barely a month after a judgement putting to an end the wrangle.

This time the two are fighting over the trademark with Madawo accusing Chiangwa of stealing his church’s trademark in a bid to mislead congregants and divert church funds.

After losing the leadership battle recently, Chiangwa went on to form another church which he named AFM of Zimbabwe which also has a logo similar to that of AFM.

The matter has spilled into the High Court where AFM has filed an urgent chamber application seeking to bar Chiangwa from using the name AFM of Zimbabwe and a logo that is similar to theirs.

In his founding affidavit, Madawo said what Chiangwa has done will only cause confusion.

“The use of the name Apostolic Faith Mission of Zimbabwe will thus mislead the applicant’s congregants and members of the public who know the applicant as the AFM church without paying much attention to the full name of the applicant,” he said.

“AFM also requires money to carry out its functions and this money is provided by way of contributions or donations.

“It is mostly from its members or anyone associating themselves with the applicant’s cause. It does not trade like a business, but its activities stand to be adversely associated with unlawful activities of the respondents as the members of the applicant and other members of the public can be misled as of the identity of the applicant,” he said.

Madawo added, “The offending logo being used by the respondents nearly resembles the applicant’s registered trademark as to cause confusion. It has a crown, a cross and shining sun.

“All these symbols are inside a circle. The only difference is that the circle used by the respondents has a white background colour while that used by the applicant is blue in colour.”

He said the subtle differences were immaterial and, in the circumstances, it was reasonable for the applicant to remain apprehensive over that congregants and the public could be misled into believing there was no difference between the two churches.

According to Madawo, the core split of the church was the removal of the system of “appreciation”.

Chiangwa was against this and his church is currently conducting an audit which will expose him, as such, they would not want to be associated with him.

The system of appreciation, according to Madawo, was being abused by some pastors and was now seen as exploitation of the congregants.

“As a removal for the first time in the history of more than 100 years of existence, the church has now been able to produce financial accounts which show how the tithes raised from congregants have been used,” he said.

“The accounts will be published soon on completion of the audit. The use of AFM of Zimbabwe will associate the church with a non-progressive system of church governance that is not equitable, transparent, and accountable to congregants and that is seen as exploitative and not focused on Christ, but rather on people and money. The balance of convenience thus favours the granting of the present application.”

Madawo said AFM is the largest Pentecostal church in the country with more than 780 assemblies and an estimated membership of 2,3 million congregants countrywide.

The trademark was registered in 2012 in November 2012 in class 45 under 15 in respect of church meetings and gatherings.

In his certificate of urgency, Alvin Kalira said AFM risks suffering irreparable harm if Chiangwa is not stopped from using the trademark and his new chosen name for the church.

“The longer it takes for the respondents to be interdicted from their actions, the more the harm that the applicant will suffer. The harm is irreparable. The present application is the only relief to arrest the damage to the applicant’s name and reputation, including protecting its registered trademark.”

AFM of Zimbabwe and Chiangwa are cited as respondents in the application by AFM.

On May 28 2021, the Supreme court handed down its judgement on the leadership of AFM and the judgement was to the effect that Chiangwa is not the legitimate leader of the church.

Chiangwa accepted the judgement and went on to form a church known as Apostolic Faith Mission of Zimbabwe with a logo that is similar to that of AFM’s registered trademark.

Madawo discovered the existence of AFM of Zimbabwe on June 6, 2021.

Thereafter, his church instructed its legal practitioners to write a cease-and-desist letter to the respondents which was delivered on June 8, 2021.

Kalira said the respondents have not stopped using a name similar to that of the applicant and using a logo that is similar to that of the applicant.

The matter is yet to be heard.