THE battle to control the Apostolic Faith Mission of Zimbabwe (AFM) has intensified with top officials from rival camps barring each other from attending services at the church’s Bulawayo branches.
AFM, one of the biggest and oldest Pentecostal churches in the country, has of late been rocked by divisions pitting two warring parties — one led by the church’s former president Dr Aspher Madziyire and another led by his former deputy, Reverend Cossam Chiangwa.
The group which is challenging the leadership of a faction aligned to Dr Madziyire’s camp has approached the High Court seeking an order interdicting their rivals from interfering and disrupting any of their services in Bulawayo.
AFM (Bulawayo West Province), through its lawyers, Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Pastors Kizito Kawonde, Ntelezi Masuku and Jacob Katsekera as respondents.
The trio is allegedly aligned to Dr Madziyire’s camp.
In his founding affidavit, the church’s Bulawayo West provincial overseer, Rev Tamuka Zvavahera said the three pastors were no longer members of the church after they were relieved of their positions following the expiry of their terms of office.
“In terms of the church constitution, the three respondents could only serve in office for a period of three years from the date of their elections and that period has lapsed leading to the termination of their services,” he said.
Rev Zvavahera said the terms of office for the three respondents lapsed at the same time as those of the former national executive, which was headed by Dr Madziyire.
“There was an unsuccessful attempt by the respondents to delay elections by trying to amend the constitution and it failed,” he said.
Rev Zvavahera said through the council of elders, an extra-ordinary general meeting of the works council was convened on September 22 during which an interim executive was appointed.
He said an elective council meeting was convened on October 20 and a substantive four-member executive led by Rev Chiangwa was subsequently elected into office.
“Pursuant to the meetings of September 22, 2018 and October 20, 2018, and my appointment as provincial overseer for Bulawayo West, I assumed my roles including the general administration of the affairs of the assemblies that fall within my jurisdiction,” said Rev Zvavahera.
He said soon after his appointment, the respondents and their followers disrupted their services at their branches in Pumula, Gwabalanda, Luveve and Cowdray Park.
“This continued and unlawful interference is what has prompted this application and we seek that this court declares the actions of the respondents to be unlawful and grant an interdict in our favour so that we can continue to worship in peace,” said Rev Zvavahera.
“The respondents have shown that they have no regard for the rule of law. They are divisive and have disrupted the smooth running of church services and pastors and congregants are now living in fear as their safety is under threat.”
The respondents through their lawyers, Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners, said they were still members of the church, arguing that the meetings which were conducted to elect a new leadership were in violation of the church constitution. They said the application is intended to be used by the applicants to block them as legitimate leaders from controlling church properties.
In his opposing affidavit, Pastor Kawonde said he was still the church’s provincial overseer for Bulawayo West.
“I am surprised that the deponent of the founding affidavit refers to himself as the provincial overseer for Bulawayo West province. This application is also an attempt by the splinter faction to hijack control of church properties, which control cannot be validly gained as the applicants must face the legal consequences of their secession from the church and their attempt at creating parallel leadership,” he said.
Pastor Kawonde said the church has embarked on a process of constitutional reform, which the applicants are opposed to as they feel the reforms on governance is a threat to their current control of church assemblies.
The AFM fights have allegedly mainly centred on Dr Madziyire’s firm hold to office for 15 years while the Rev Chiangwa group has been pushing for fresh elections to choose new leaders.