Lusaka magistrate Felix Kaoma has sentenced a pastor of Interdenominational Jesus Ministries, John Simfukwe, to five years imprisonment with hard labour for swindling a widow of over K260,000.
In this matter, Simfukwe of Chipata Overspill was charged with theft by agent.
Particulars of the offence were that Simfukwe between August 16, 2016 and August 17, 2018 stole K260,000 cash which was entrusted to him by Mildred Chikato to buy a house on her behalf and to assist her with business.
Chikato had previously told the court that the said the money was part of her late husband’s benefits who was working for Zambia Army.
She had narrated that in 2016, she had gone to visit her sister-in-law in Chipata Overspill when she joined her to go for prayers at Simfukwe’s church.
She said when they reached church, Pastor Simfukwe who was the preacher, prophesied to her that he could see a spirit of death.
“How I knew him (Simfukwe), I went to visit my sister in law on a Sunday, she was my husband’s cousin. She was going to church and I said I would go with her. When we reached church, pastor John Simfukwe was the one preaching. He prophesied to me saying he was seen a spirit of death. He then stopped and told me that I should go for counseling,” she said.
Chikato said when she went for counseling, the man of God continued with his prophesy saying he was seen her dying and joining her husband.
She said during counseling, Simfukwe asked her where her late husband was working before he died, his rank and whether she had already collected his benefits.
Chikato said after five months of congregating at the church, she got the benefits amounting to K339,000 and took tithe of K5,000 to the same church but Simfukwe asked her how much she was paid in full.
She testified that the pastor then told her that the K5,000 she had taken was not 10 percent of what the Bible dictated adding that the following day she added another K28,900 to make the tithe K33,900.
In conclusion, Chikato said she gave Simfukwe K170,000 to help her purchase a house and another K90,000 to assist her with business, bringing the total amount to K260,000, which to-date had not been paid.
And passing his judgement, Friday, magistrate Kaoma said the State had proved the case against the accused.
He convicted Simfukwe of the charge saying he was persuaded beyond reasonable doubt that he was guilty of theft by agent.
Magistrate Kaoma added that it was fact that Simfukwe was given the money by the widow and he failed to declare it back to the owner.
He said it was clear that Pastor Simfukwe capitalized on the vulnerability of the woman.
Magistrate Kaoma observed that although Simfukwe was a first offender who deserved some leniency, he needed to be punished because he had breached the trust of the victim.
He therefore sentenced Simfukwe to five years and ordered that the widow be compensated K260,000 using the convict’s assets.