Gunshots rang at the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church in Marlborough on Thursday night as security guards hired by a group led by Reverend Cossam Chiangwa attempted to forcibly take control of the premises from the Reverend Amon Madawo-led group.
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident, saying investigations are underway.
He said representatives of both church factions later made counter-reports to the police.
The Supreme Court recently upheld a High Court judgement which ruled against Chiangwa, in favour of Madawo, whom the courts recognise as the legitimate leader of the church.
Giving his church’s side of the story, board member in charge of security for Reverend Madawo’s camp, Reggies Nyandoro said:
I received a call from one of the security details at church advising me that there were armed men outside the gate.
They wanted him to open the gate so they could guard the church because Pastor Chiangwa had engaged them to do so.
I advised the guard to alert his Control Office and to call ZRP Marlborough.
He said after about 10 minutes the guard called him, advising that the armed men were now agitated and threatening to shoot him. Said Nyandoro:
I asked him to put me on speakerphone and spoke to one of the gun-wielding men. I asked him his name and he refused to divulge it.
He shouted that they had been engaged by Reverend Chiangwa to guard his church and that I should ask the guard to open the gate.
He continued to insist on getting the gate opened and I asked our guard to terminate the call. I later heard that they fired gunshots.
Contacted to give his side of the story on Saturday, Chiangwa referred questions to his deacon Thomas Gwatidzo who was at the scene of the incident. Gwatidzo said:
The matter is currently under police investigation, so I do not want to give too much information that could jeopardise investigations or give ammunition to the other party (Reverend Madawo’s group).
I think it is best to leave the matter in the hands of the police for now. All I can say is that this is a small matter.
No one was harmed. I think you also understand that it is legal to fire warning shots if one is under attack.