By Mary Taruvinga
THE High court has ordered a total of 35 congregants of Ngezi Baptist Church, to vacate the church’s property in Kadoma after ruling that they have ceased to be members of the church.
The congregants had officially withdrawn from the church voluntarily but went on to continue occupying a church challenging the main church.
Harare High Court judge, Justice Owen Tagu ruled the 35 had no authority to use the property as they had officially voluntarily withdrawn from the church in 2014.
“The defendants have left the Baptist Convention as well as the Ngezi Baptist Church. They have no right to claim church property which they found there when they joined. Just as they came with nothing, they must leave with nothing,” ruled the judge.
He added: “It is therefore ordered that; the defendants are no longer members of the Plaintiffs as a result of their withdrawal from membership of the Plaintiffs. That possession and control of the church property…vests in the plaintiffs and not defendants who are in unlawful possession and control.”
Ngezi Baptists church and its parent denomination; the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe (BCZ) were the first and second plaintiffs respectively.
The church had filed an application at the High Court earlier this year seeking an order confirming the 35’s withdrawal from the church.
In its application, the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe claimed that the 35, represented by Michael Malunga who was cited as the 1st defendant wrote a letter to the church in January 2014 announcing their withdrawal from the congregation.
In the letter, Malunga told the members of BCZ’s congress that they were unsatisfied with amendments to the Convention’s constitution and would withdraw Ngezi Baptist Church from the main branch.
This prompted the convention to file an application at the court accusing Malunga and his breakaway faction of preventing other church members from using the church property, dismissing the sitting pastor, and interfering with the church’s activities.
According to court papers, BCZ had also argued that they could not withdraw the Ngezi branch from the Convention as they had no authority over the control of the church.
The convention sought confirmation of the 35 congregant’s withdrawal from the denomination as well as an interdict barring them from interfering with the church operations.
Malunga had challenged the eviction, arguing that it would be unlawful as they were the rightful owners of the property in Kadoma.