ONE of the longest serving leaders of a Pentecostal church in Zimbabwe, AFM President Dr Aspher Madziyire will step down from the helm of the church after elections to choose a new leader are held this Saturday.
However, a rival camp led by former vice-president Reverend Cosam Chiyangwa held its elections last week in Masvingo where Rev Chiyangwa was elected the leader of his group.
Dr Madziyre confirmed to Sunday News last week that he is not seeking re-election when his side holds elections to chose a new executive on 3 November.
The elections are coming at a time when AFM, one of the biggest Pentecostal churches in the country, has been rocked by divisions with two distinct camps having emerged.
“I am not seeking re-election, I have done my part and others have to come in and lead the church,” said Dr Madiyire who started leading the church in 2006.
Pressed to comment on the problems that have rocked the church, including his purported suspension by the other group, Rev Madziyire said:
“I will write a book about that, so at the moment, I will not talk much. But you must know that Satan normally fights those who are strong, so if you see some people being used to fight you, then it means you are a strong believer. Even in the Bible, you can see that Satan would target the strong ones but we all know that in the end God wins,” he said.
Despite not being able to talk much about the goings on in the church since he took over 12 years ago, Dr Madziyire was willing to let the history of the fight in the church come out through one of his trusted lieutenants, Dr Clever Gomba who is an overseer in Bulawayo.
“In short the fight in AFM is centred on money and resources,” said Dr Gomba who was quick to say that his analysis is not only from a church point of view but an academic point of views since he is a lecturer at Solusi University.
“All along AFM pastors used to get money from the branches they are leading. You would discover a pastor in Borrowdale (Harare) would collect about $30 000 per month as tithes in addition to appreciation which is done quarterly. Another pastor who graduated from the same school but posted in rural areas would get far less, say $90 and this was creating problems.
“So we said let us amend the constitution to allow the pooling of resources and allow pastors to be paid centrally and that is when all hell broke loose.
“Those pastors who were benefiting resisted and in short this is what started all these divisions that are rocking the church now,” he said.
Dr Gomba said before the amendments could even be effected, a splinter group led Rev Chiyangwa started trying to unseat Dr Madziyire and called a meeting. They allegedly passed a vote of no confidence on Dr Madziyire and a number of officials.
“The constitution states that only the president can call a Council meeting so that is the first thing. Secondly a quorum (for a Council meeting) must be made up of about 1 500 delegates mainly pastors and overseers out of the 3 500 members. This meeting had just around 750 members so it lacked merit on many fronts.”
Dr Gomba said since Rev Chiyangwa has held elections and branched away with just 280 pastors, it was clear who has more support and more people.
“We have more than 1 000 ordained pastors and 32 overseers and most of them have remained with the church. This is not surprising a lot of people have moved out of the church since it came to Zimbabwe around 1915.”
AFM’s history is littered with splits. The church was started in Zimbabwe by Rev Zacharius Manamela in Gwanda in 1915.
Barely a year later, one of the prominent people to come out of the church was Rev Samuel Mutendi who formed the Black Zionist Church which is now the present day ZCC Mutendi. Around 1945, another major spilt saw the formation of Mugodi Apostolic Church. In the 1950s, another major split came in the form of Rev Ezekiel Guti when he formed the then AOGA.
Over the years, some of the churches that have come out of AFM include Life House International led by the late Evangelist Talent Chiweshe, Heartfelt International Ministers led by Bishop Tavonga Vutabwase, United Family Church International led by Pastor Emmanuel Makandiwa and International DSD led by Pastor Oliver Chipunza.
“So you can see this is not new, many people have moved out of AFM but it has remained strong,” said Dr Gomba.