Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
Mugodhi Apostolic Faith Church’s self-imposed leader Tony Sigauke has failed in a High Court bid to unseat the publicly anointed Washington Mugodhi as the bishop of the church.
The church, one of the largest apostolic sects in the country, has been dogged with schismatic fights since the death of the founder Tadewu Mugodhi in October 2019, who had anointed Washington to take over.
Since his death, the church has not relished peace time as his sons have been fighting never-ending court battles with Sigauke who claims to be the legitimate successor of Mugodhi in accordance with the church’s constitution.
Justice Esther Muremba ruled Sigauke offside on the grounds that he does not have the legal capacity to represent the church and threw out the application.
Sigauke is the acting bishop, which does not cloth him with the power to represent the church in instituting legal proceedings on its behalf.
He could not claim to be in charge of the church, yet he is suing Washington Mugodhi for holding himself as the current leader of the church, seeking to nullify the latter’s appointment as Bishop of the church, whether rightly or wrongly.
“In view of the foregoing, I make a finding that the applicant has no locus standi to bring the present application,” said Justice Muremba. “In the result, it is ordered that the application is dismissed.”
Sigauke could only be a co-respondent with Washington Mugodhi who has control over the church, said the judge, adding that the relief that he sought was meant to serve his personal interest.
“He wants to be appointed acting bishop of the applicant and for the respondent to be divested of power over the applicants. Clearly, this is an acknowledgement that the respondent has taken leadership and control of the applicant, otherwise why sue him,” asked Justice Muremba, while criticising Sigauke for trying to serve his interest under the guise of the church.
Justice Muremba said Sigauke should have brought the application in his own name.
Two years ago, Sigauke took Washington to court for clinging on to the throne against the church’s constitution.
Washington is also being accused of imposing himself as the bishop of the church, also against a court order.
In his application, Sigauke sought Washington’s appointment as bishop nullified. He wanted Aaron Munodawafa to be declared the substantive bishop of the church with him his deputy.
Shortly before his death, Mugodhi anointed his son as the bishop during a meeting attended by all the top leadership of the church.
But Sigauke opposed the decision and approached the courts challenging the move.
The High Court last year upheld his application, with Washington’s appointment nullified.
This prompted Washington and his brothers to take the matter up to the Supreme Court on appeal against the decision.
The counter-appeal succeeded on a legal technicality after it was observed that the High Court had incorrectly admitted evidence filed in Shona language.
However, at a national general conference that followed on February 20 this year, it was resolved that Munodawafa as the senior bishop would become the substantive church leader with Sigauke as his deputy.
The court heard that Sigauke became the acting bishop on the strength that Munodawafa is now 105 years old and, therefore, incapacitated to carry out church functions.
However, in the same month during Mugodhi’s memorial service, Washington reportedly imposed himself as the church leader.
This spawned the present application, which Justice Muremba discharged for lack of merit.