The battle for the control of one of Zimbabwe’s oldest and largest pentecostal churches, the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM), has taken a new twist amid claims that followers of a splinter group led by Reverend Cossam Chiangwa are planning to besiege church premises countrywide and disrupt services this Sunday.
The battle to control AFM came out in the open in 2018 and has played out in the public for the past three years.
It resulted in the emergence of two rival camps, one led by Reverend Amon Dubie Madawo and the other by Rev Chiangwa who was the church’s former deputy president.
AFM Harare north province overseer Reverend Charukwa who is under Reverend Madawo, the legitimate leader of the church, has since sent a communique to congregants, urging them to “defend and guard the church”.
This follows reports that congregants loyal to Chiangwa, who recently lost a court ruling to control the church’s property, are planning to cause anarchy today. The statement by Chirukwa read:
Be at the church way before your usual starting time or have people at the church who will stop our erstwhile brothers when they try to enter the premises.
Make sure all doors and gates are locked and secure only to be opened when we start church. This ensures maximum security on our part.
In another statement dated 16 October, the interim secretary-general of AFM, Elder Chiwaridzo alleges that there have been recent cases of contempt of court, unlawful entry and trespassing at a number of the church’s assemblies around the country. He wrote:
Relevant reports on the transgression were lodged to the police with the intention of allowing the law to deal with the offenders. Charges were duly preferred to the offenders.
Elder Chiwaridzo also said they were pushed to respond in view of threats of violence and lawlessness from the rival faction.
Meanwhile, Chiangwa on Saturday night denied that his group had plans to disrupt AFM services today. He said:
We are not aware of any plot to besiege a church congregation, we remain a peaceful people no matter what.