By Taurai Emmanuel Maforo (Rev) – Trial Court Reporter
HARARE. The 13-member Zimbabwe West Annual Conference Jury concluded its business on Wednesday 7th December 2017 at Mabelreign South UMC, declaring Rev. Elliot Chikwenjere “has a case to answer” and his full membership with the annual conference terminated. It is within the powers of the trial court to “terminate the conference membership” of the Respondent if found guilty. (2712.3)Rev. E. Chikwenjere(Chinhoyi) (3)
Bishop Daniel Wandabula of the East Africa Annual Conference (EAAC) presided over the court proceedings.
Rev. Anesu Katsande representing the jury read the verdict; “The Jury unanimously agreed that the respondent has a case to answer. That is in reference to the criminal case already ruled by Harare Magistrates Court. Further the respondent went further to serve his sentence without objection. Due to the above facts, the jury has agreed that the respondent is not in good standing. Therefore we recommend termination of conference membership of Rev. Elliot Chikwenjere.”
The penalty takes immediate effect as per the 2016 Book of Discipline paragraph 2712.3 which states that; “The penalty fixed by the trial court shall take effect immediately unless otherwise indicated by the trial court”.
Bill of Charges and Specifications:
Rev. Elliot Chikwenjere was convicted of a crime by a court of law (HARARE MAGISTRATES COURT) and was sentenced to 525 hours of Community service. Crime is deemed a chargeable offence in terms of The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline 2702.1(c) In pursuance of the Bill of Charges the Counsel for the Church, Rev. Kelvin Mwandira submitted that the Respondent (Rev. Elliot Chikwenjere) was therefore “not in good standing”.
The Counsel for the Respondent, Rev. Clara Zamuchiya did not oppose or seek to amend the “Bill of Charges and Specifications” or allegations, save for the fact that she had submissions on the procedures taken in suspending her client prior to the trial.
The submissions by Rev. Zamuchiya were forfeited as they were supposed to be dealt with as “Pre-trial motions and referrals” which according to the church’s law are supposed to be appealed to the presiding officer before convening of the trial court. “That being the case these objections lose their right of appeal” said Rev. Mwandira. The Presiding Officer consented.
• REV. KELVIN MWANDIRA: the Counsel for the Church as provided in ¶ 2708.7. He was assisted as entitled by one assistant counsel without voice.
• REV. CLARA ZAMCHIYA: represented the respondent Rev. Elliot Chikwenjere who was also assisted as entitled by one assistant counsel without voice.
• An assistant counsel, may be an attorney, without voice. “Without voice” means without the ability to speak to or within the hearing of the trial court. These counsels only provided guidance to the Church’s and Respondent’s Counsels.
Selection of the Trial Court
The Trial Pool consisted of 35 Elders in Full Connection drawn from the Annual Conference’s six Districts – Bulawayo-Midlands, Harare Central, Harare West, Masvingo, Murewa UMP and Mutoko-Mudzi. From this pool thirteen persons were selected as a trial court and two as alternates according to para 2712.3, 2713.3, and 2714.3. The rest of the members from the pool and cabinet members present followed proceedings as observers.
The following Elders in Full Connection made up the jury; Reverends Jekesai Muswe, Edmore Chimbwanda, Hildah Madzinga, Sarah Chibari, Tichaona Marara, Constance Kamusikiri, Munyaradzi Ndaradzi, Anesu Katsande, Tendai Zimunya, Edward Kapfumvuti, Washington Kwembeya, Nhamo Chonzi and Vincent Muzori. Reverends Maud Muchanyereyi and Sheila Karimanzira were elected as alternates.
Reverends Eunice Marima and Taurai Emmanuel Maforo were appointed by the Presiding Officer as Court Marshal and Court Secretary respectively. Rev. Maforo was assisted by two court stenographers, Rev. Stuart Nyandoro and Rev. Rosemary Kamba.
“I am impressed with the way the court progressed…” concluded Bishop Wandabula. He however went on to advise the Counsel of the Respondent of the provisions for appeal if there was need. Rev. Anesu Katsande was requested by the Presiding Officer to close the court proceedings with a prayer.
The church’s law stipulates that, “Church trials are to be regarded as an expedient of last resort. Only after every reasonable effort has been made to correct any wrong and adjust any existing difficulty should steps be taken to institute a trial. No such trial as herein provided shall be construed to deprive the respondent or the Church of legal civil rights, except to the extent that immunity is provided as in ¶ 2701.4d. All trials shall be conducted according to the Book of Discipline in a consistent Christian manner by a properly constituted court after due investigation.”