By Moses Masiye
Commotion engulfed Balaka second grade magistrate court on tuesday following conviction of leader for Seventh day Apostolic Church for contempt of court and ruling that the faithfuls vacate their camp site in the district, which they acquired without following proper procedures.
Second grade magistrate Victor Sibu ordered Pastor David Phiri to pay a fine of 5 thousand Kwacha or in default spend seven days in prison, for not standing as per court rules when the magistrate enters the court.
The ruling and fine angered followers who started chanting outside the courtroom until police dispersed them using tear-gas canisters, before speeding away with the convict who is under police custody.
Mrs. Rona Chitanda of Mtalika village Traditional authority Nsamala in the district, sued Seventh day Apostolic Church for encroaching on her land, where they are camping since the month of July this year.
In civil case number 376 of 2015, Balaka second grade magistrate court heard that over 50 members of the Seventh day Apostolic faith arrived at Mrs. Chitanda’s forest reserve on July 26, 2015 with their belongings claiming that God directed them to stay there from Salima where they also camped for a year.
Representing the Church, David Phiri said they do not construct Church buildings, but are always on the move spreading the Gospel of God elsewhere the lord commands them to go, and stay anywhere as per God’s directive.
Phiri said they only follow God’s rules, not the laws of the land.
When the magistrate entered the packed court, Phiri did not stand up, and again when the magistrate ordered him so, the time he was supposed to give plea.
Second grade Magistrate Sibu immediately ordered Phiri to pay five thousand kwacha fine for contempt of court or spend seven days in prison.
During a 20 minute recess, Phiri’s followers were chanting for his release, as the magistrate was preparing judgement.
Magistrate Sibu said having heard from the plaintiff and the defendants as well as the witnesses, he ordered David Phiri and his followers to vacate the place within seven days.
He said the land Act also empowers the court to use law enforcers if they do not comply, but said the defendants were free to appeal.
David Phiri who hails from Malemia village, T/A Malemia in Chikwawa, said his faith do not allow them pay fines.
Police had to use force to cary him to the police station, and some of the followers smashed a windscreen of the police vehicle as it sped away with the convict.
Magistrates and other court officials fled the premises on bicycle taxi, with tears as a result of the tear-gas canisters, hence they have no other means of transport.
Meanwhile, about four children are reportedly dead at the camp site, where there is poor sanitation and that the faith restricts them from taking medication.
School aged children at the camp do not go to school, as they are always on the move.
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