By Phyllis Mbanje
HARARE – A fierce leadership wrangle has rocked the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) in Zimbabwe, raising fears the Pentecostal church could be heading for a split after some pastors and elders dragged their administrators to court challenging the way they conducted the church’s presidential and overseers’ elections last month.
According to court documents, some pastors, deacons and overseers from the church’s 20 provinces approached the court seeking nullification of Reverend Aspher Madziyire’s election as president.
“The above provinces were created just before the presidential election of the church to influence the election results in favour of the first defendant (Madziyire) who was the incumbent president when the provinces were created,” the pastors and deacons said in their court summons.
The litigants also claimed that Madziyire was elected without the consent of the church’s workers’ council which was supposed to form an electoral college to vote for the president.
“First defendant (Madziyire) gathered largely his protégés on the 31st of January 2015 without calling for the workers’ council as per the (AFM) constitution and claimed that those protégés who voted on that day had given him the mandate to be president of the church for the next three years from January 2015,” they averred.
The pastors also alleged the leaders involved “created” delegates who were not supposed to vote.
Madziyire is alleged to have achieved this by creating three provinces: Manicaland East, Murewa and Mashonaland Central.
“The provinces were created to influence the election results in favour of Madziyire.”
The disgruntled clergymen also sought to nullify provincial elections of overseers at the Tynwald AFM Church, saying they were not held in accordance with the AFM constitution.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday, secretary of the church’s national leadership forum, Bishop Christopher Choto, said the bone of contention was the presidential elections which he said were held unconstitutionally.
“We are the concerned members of the church. We have come together because of the issues that are affecting the congregants and operations of the church,” Choto said.
He disputed allegations that it was a case of sour grapes for the pastors who lost in the elections.
“The issues that drove us to approach the courts are concerns of the congregants who were unhappy about the election process. There is now a lot of victimisation and intimidation of pastors. This has caused many divisions.”
The disgruntled clergymen, who are being represented by Harare lawyer Zivanai Macharaga, gave Madziyire and the church’s top leadership 10 days to file their opposing papers.
Efforts to contact Madziyire for comment last night were fruitless as he was reportedly in a church service. NewsDay