Pastor Manford Kapyola of the Faith Christian Church has been forced to climb down the pedestal of the pulpit and spend the next four years in jail after he was found guilty of indecently assaulting his nine-year-old granddaughter.
Wednesday’s conviction of Kapyola, 50, came after police in Blantyre three weeks ago arrested the pastor, who lives in Manase Township in the city.
According to records at Blantyre Magistrate’s Court, on January 11 2013, the girl’s mother found Kapyola in a toilet with the girl.
After realising that his world was crumbling around him, the pastor fled and went into hiding, but surrendered to police two days later to face the charge of indecent assault.
It is a case that has compromised the relationship between two close-knit families, resulting in bitterness and acrimony.
Kapyola has been on remand at Chichiri Maximum Security Prison from January 13 2013 from where he has been attending court proceedings.
In his ruling, Blantyre chief resident magistrate Thomson Ligowe said the girl’s mother saw Kapyola enter a pit latrine at his neighbour’s plot. She also saw her daughter follow him, forcing her to intervene.
“She called out for her daughter and saw the convict coming out of the same latrine. She wondered what he was doing with the child and she shouted for help. People came and Kapyola fled,” reads part of Ligowe’s ruling.
The girl told the court that she suspected Kapyola’s interest in her on January 11 2013 when she went to his house to watch television.
“As we were watching TV, he kept looking at me. Even as I was going out, he was looking at me,” she told the court.
She said Kapyola invited her to the toilet several times, but she initially turned him down. The girl said she later succumbed and granted him his wish. She said in the toilet, the pastor gave her a hug until her mother called her name from outside.
She said he struck her on the thighs with his manhood.
The girl also said Kapyola told her “tisamanene kwa makolo” [we should not disclose this to parents).
Ligowe said the statement created the impression that the pastor and the girl had been involved in such acts continuously.
A medical examination by Dr Jenala Chilammadzi, paediatric registrar at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), and Dr Carmen Gonzalez, conducted on January 12, whose report was submitted in court, found that the girl’s private parts had not been violated.
The report said neither bruises nor blood were noticed in the girl’s private parts.
“But in their final analysis, they did not completely exclude possibilities of defilement in view of the girl’s history,” said magistrate Ligowe in his ruling.
In defence, Kapyola admitted to have been found leaving the toilet, but without the girl whom he claimed to have met six metres away from the toilet.
The pastor said he fled from the area to protect himself as people had come with weapons to assault him.
He accused the girl’s mother of bribing court officials to secure conviction.
But the magistrate was unconvinced.
“Kapyola did not impress me as a truthful witness as he gave evidence in defence…he did not counter the evidence given by the girl. All he said was that he did not commit the offence as he met the girl outside the toilet,” said Ligowe in the ruling.
In an interview before the pastor was convicted, his wife blamed the girl’s mother, who she has raised since she was eight years old, for her husband’s arrest and misery.
“I went to her house soon after she [the girl’s mother] returned from the hospital with the girl for tests to enquire about the outcome. She slapped me and asked me to leave her house in full view of on-lookers,” she said.
Even after the conviction, she believes in her husband’s innocence, saying he will appeal the sentence.
The girl’s mother admitted to have slapped her aunt, saying she was angered by what the pastor had done to her daughter.
“I was angry and she just walked into my house as if everything was alright,” she said.
Senior pastor of the Faith Christian Church Matiasi Gama said the church had not seen the judgement and could not, therefore, take any action against the disgraced pastor.