Zimbabwe: Deputy Sheriff Pounces On UMC

A Murehwa Deputy Sheriff yesterday descended on a United Methodist Church (UMC) conference, impounding 19 vehicles in a long-running salary dispute between the church and its workers.

The deputy sheriff confirmed that he had confiscated the vehicles in execution of a writ of the High Court, as the church had failed to pay its workers since January.

The UMC was in the middle of holding a conference in Murehwa when the deputy sheriff pounced.

When The Standard arrived at the church where the conference was taking place, the mood was tense with tight security at the gate.

Efforts to speak to the church leaders were futile, as security at the gate would only allow in people that were attending the conference, saying the senior priests were busy.

The workers' lawyer, Karen Muyangwa confirmed that she had obtained a writ to have the cars impounded over salaries the church owed to six workers.

"Workers of the church's publications unit had not received their salaries since January, so we approached the courts in April," she said. "They [UMC] then said they would start paying in May but then they defaulted."

Muyangwa, chronicling the legal battles she had fought with the UMC, said the church kept giving dates of when they would pay the salary arrears, but each time they kept defaulting, forcing her clients to seek arbitration and recourse from the High Court.

She said the arbitration order had granted the workers US$13 000, but since time had elapsed since the order and the execution of the writ, the amount was now above US$20 000.

"Now they have to factor in a 13th cheque since we are now in November and with legal costs and the deputy sheriff's costs, the figure is now above US$20 000," she said.

Muyangwa said the church had been deducting money claiming that it was forwarding to statutory bodies such as the National Social Security Authority, but investigations showed that this was not the case and the Methodists had to reimburse the workers the deducted money.

She said the Methodist Publications Unit was not a registered company, hence the mother body, the United Methodist Church, was responsible for the salaries and well-being of the workers.

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