By Brian Chitemba
The Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (AFM) continues to burn with counter-suspensions reigning supreme in the top leadership of the church as the battle for control rages on in one of the biggest Pentecostal churches in the country.
The long running fight is threatening to split the church which has millions of followers across Zimbabwe.
It now seems there is no solution in sight as AFM has two warring factions — one led by church president Dr Aspher Madziyire while another is led by his deputy, Reverend Cosam Chiyangwa.
According to an internal memorandum written by the church’s general secretary Reverend Amos Madawu on September 26, 2018, seven top church leaders have since been suspended for violating the church constitution.
He wrote that the AFM Apostolic Council resolved to suspend without pay and benefits, the church’s deputy president and Harare West province Overseer Rev Chiyangwa, Harare North Overseer Rev Arthur Nhamburo, Harare East Overseer Rev Amon Chinyemba and Ruwa province Overseer Rev Maron Mashumba.
Others who were suspended include Rev Nathan Nhira (Bulawayo North), Rev Donald Ndoni (Masvingo) and Rev Mapuranga (Midlands South). The church leaders were suspended in terms of SI of 2006 for “conduct inconsistent with the express or implied conditions of their employment”.
Rev Madawu said the church appointed Reverends Madziyire, Join Mdlongwa, Rabson Mbedzi, Innocent Murefu, Knowledge Munjeri, Enos Manyika and Munyaradzi Shumba as a caretaker committee in the vacant provinces.
Pastors, elders, deacons, deaconesses and administrators of Harare West, East and North provinces as well as Ruwa are expected to meet this weekend at the AFM Living Waters Bible College to map the way forward for the affected areas.
However, one of the pastors who is fighting in Rev Chiyangwa’s corner rubbished the suspensions announced by Rev Madawu.
He said, “(Rev) Madawu has no authority to suspend leaders because at the Saturday NWC meeting, a vote of no confidence was passed on the (Dr) Madziyire team which has overstayed in power and don’t want to step down.”
The suspension of Rev Chiyangwa’s faction came days after his group had claimed leadership of the church.
AFM’s national works council met at Rufaro where Dr Madziyire and his lieutenants were sacked from the church. Rev Nhira (the acting secretary) wrote on September 23, 2018, announcing that Rev Chiyangwa was the interim national chairman, pending elections. Rev Chinyemba was appointed the deputy chairman while Elder Sebata was named the acting national administrator.
Rev Nhira said the Rufaro national works council meeting also resolved that, “all communications made from any other source shall be ignored with immediate effect.
“That all election dates prior announced through the notice of September 21 should be ignored. As per our agreement, no AFM in Zimbabwe Assembly boards shall participate in those elections.
“That the national interim committee shall develop and circulate the election guidelines to all provinces in line with the current AFM in Zimbabwe Constitution (not the DRAFT).”
The AFM fights have mainly centred on Dr Madziyire’s firm hold to office for 15 years while the Rev Chiyangwa group has been pushing for fresh elections to choose new leadership.
The two camps are also disagreeing on the election dates and the adoption of a new church constitution.
The draft constitution seeks to ban pastors from being involved in administrative and governance issues and also reduce the number of times an assembly can hold ‘‘appreciation days’’ for a resident pastor.
‘‘Appreciation’’ is money or gifts raised in a church for the pastor.
It is alleged that some pastors were hosting several such days per year, instead of once annually.
The draft constitution has been viewed as a move to clip the wings of pastors opposed to Dr Madziyire.
In a notice dated September 25, 2018, Rev Madawu said the new constitution remains suspended until December 15, 2018, to accommodate views from church members.
“For the avoidance of doubt, no changes to the new constitution shall be made outside the workers council and without being subjected to scrutiny and vote of the workers council.
“Following the workers council meeting, the new constitution shall be implemented with or without amendment,” he said. Sunday Mail.