Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
DISGRACED pastor and founder of Kingdom Rulers International Church in Bulawayo, Greatness Tapfuma (37), who turned a 16-year-old congregant into a sex slave, infected her with HIV and genital warts, is on the run after he absconded from court.
Legally, Tapfuma was supposed to have been taken back to prison last year when his appeal at the High Court was dismissed but The Chronicle could not immediately get officials to explain why he has been a free man.
Tapfuma was scheduled to appear before Justices Marie-Anne Gowora, Francis Bere and Antonia Guvava during a Supreme Court circuit in Bulawayo last week to challenge the dismissal of his appeal against conviction and sentence by the High Court.
He however, defaulted resulting in a warrant of arrest being issued against him following an application by the State.
Tapfuma of Cowdray Park suburb made headlines in 2015 after he raped the teenage congregant claiming to be driving out a death demon that wanted to kill her father and infected her with HIV and genital warts.
The disgraced pastor filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court soon after Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, who was then a High Court judge, dismissed his application in which he was challenging both conviction and sentence last year.
Tapfuma, who was out on $500 bail pending the outcome of his appeal, was legally supposed to have been taken back to prison following the dismissal of his appeal by Justice Mathonsi.
He was in 2015 convicted of two counts of rape by former Bulawayo regional magistrate Mr Crispen Mberewere and sentenced to an effective 25 years in jail after five years were conditionally suspended for five years.
In his grounds of appeal, Tapfuma argued that in assessing the evidence and the credibility of witnesses, the judge failed to pay attention to the timelines in the matter.
“As a result of this omission, both the learned judge and the trial court reached conclusions of fact that cannot reasonably be supported on the record,” he argued.
Tapfuma said the judge erred by declining to order that the custodial sentences in the two counts run concurrently in light of evidence that the offences were inextricably linked in terms of common intent, locality and time.
He further argued that the judge failed to appreciate the significance and the discrepancies between the evidence of the two witnesses who testified.
Tapfuma said the evidence on record did not support conviction, arguing that it was fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies. He sought an order quashing his conviction and setting aside his sentence.
In dismissing Tapfuma’s appeal, Justice Mathonsi said the interests of justice dictate that “false men of God” should be incarcerated for lengthy prison terms to protect society from their evil acts.
He described Tapfuma as a sexual pervert who sought to quench his sexual appetite by raping an innocent girl in the most callous and unimaginable manner.
According to the State papers, between October and November 2015, Tapfuma called the girl to his home and raped her in exchange for prayers for her father who he said was facing death. After raping the girl, Tapfuma ordered her to keep the sexual act a secret as divulging it would provoke the death spirit to kill her father immediately.
The girl began to notice some blisters on her privates.
As her condition worsened in December, she tested HIV positive and that was when her mother asked how she got infected.
She then revealed what had been happening and a police report was made leading to Tapfuma’s arrest. A church elder approached her and tried to entice her to drop the charges in exchange for a house, a car or cash but she refused. — @mashnets