A Harare couple has claimed in High Court papers that United Family International Church (Ufic) leader Emmanuel Makandiwa and his wife, Ruth, are false prophets out to make money.
Upenyu and Blessing Mashangwa want Makandiwa to repay them $5,6 million that they allegedly gave to Ufic as tithes and other donations while they were still members of the church.
The Mashangwas are suing Makandiwa, accusing him of giving them false prophecies about their business.
In their heads of argument prepared by their lawyer, advocate Thabani Mpofu and filed at the High Court, the couple claimed Makandiwa's "false prophecies" caused them massive losses.
Two weeks ago, Makandiwa had through his lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri, filed an exception to the lawsuit, saying matters of faith could not be handled by a secular court.
However, in their response, the Mashangwas said "instead of meeting the claims head-on and establishing the truth of their representations, the prophets have decided to hide behind curtains of legalism and subterfuge".
"They abuse the process of the court in doing so much the same way they abused the trust reposed in them by the plaintiffs [Mashangwas].
"The exception raised must be dismissed with costs, it is an annoyance."
Mpofu urged the court to take judicial notice of the proliferation of self-styled prophets.
"Those prey on the religious, taking advantage of the negative economic conditions," he argued.
"The time has come for the court to either interpret existing principles of law or extend them in answering the key question being whether these prophets are immune from suit if they mislead their followers".
Mpofu said his clients were arguing that Makandiwa falsely claimed God would cancel their debts.
"The power of God is undoubted and every believer would believe that God can do anything," he said.
"The case brought, however, is that God had not spoken to the Makandiwas about debt cancellation, thus they abused the name of God and took advantage of their congregants who believe in the power of God and who were of the view that the 'prophets' had communion with Him.
"The plaintiffs allege that the false and fraudulent representation having been made, they took certain decisions to their prejudice.
"A self-respecting, self-proclaimed prophet must react to these allegations and meet them head-on.
"These strike at everything that defendants stand for. That a claim lies when a fraudulent misrepresentation is made is beyond doubt."
Mpofu said it was difficult to understand that people who claimed to be prophets referred his clients to a deregistered lawyer Tichaona Mawere while claiming he was the best.
The Mashangwas are demanding $1,7 million from the Makandiwas over the debacle.
"The second claim is very clear. This is what the prophet is alleged to have done," Mpofu said.
"He lied that Tichaona Mawere was not only a lawyer, but a great one too and one who could never lose a case.
"The actual truth was that Mawere could lose no case because he had no right to practise and was consequently not a lawyer as alleged.
"When the 'prophet' lied, he intended for the plaintiffs to trust Mawere with their affairs. In the event, they did so with their lives.
"Plaintiffs had no choice but to trust a 'God sanctioned lawyer'. Having thus trusted Mawere plaintiffs lost a fortune.
"They paid unearned legal fees and also lost what they sought to claim. Just how does one who calls themselves a prophet place such trust in a bogus lawyer?"
Mpofu claimed the Makandiwas were brainwashing their followers and the courts had to address the issue of "seeding" that he said had impoverished many.
The case is yet to be heard in open court.