Mwazha faction leader confronts police for ‘taking sides’ in church feud

HARARE – The bitter factional feud over control of the African Apostolic Church (AAC), founded by Archbishop Paul Mwazha has resurfaced with one of the parties accusing its rivals of using police to block their congregants from attending church and participating in other worship activities.

Mwazha, 104, one of the country’s pioneers of indigenous churches, was obliged to intervene and reclaim his leadership role, in 2021 by a Supreme Court order.

This followed a succession dispute by the factions that both sought to unconstitutionally replace him.

The feud has surfaced between Mwazha loyalists led by Bishops Simbanechako Sveta and Paul Chari and rival faction leader Enerst Mhambare.

In a letter dated September 26 to police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga, the president’s office, and other state institutions, Sveta and Chari lamented Mhambare has imposed himself as de facto leader, working in collusion with police officers to bar them and other congregants as he moved to cement his authority.

Sveta and Chari, in the letter submitted through lawyer Admire Rubaya, accused Mhambare of abusing a High Court order which did not relate to them to bar them from congregating in places of worship.

“We hasten to point out that Ernest Mhambare and his cabal are abusing an Order of the High Court of Zimbabwe per Honourable Justice Mangota obtained under the cover of Case No. HC537/22 dated the 24th of June 2022.

“It is clear that the order was obtained against Alfred Kushamisa Mwazha, Ngoni Edward Mwazha, James Mwazha, Richard Juru, Elson Tafa, Charles Tekeshe, Lovemore Mharadze and Norman Siyamuzhombe.

“However, the harassment by the police has been extended beyond these specified individuals, and in particular, to our clients,” read parts of the letter.

“In the circumstances, we urge you to investigate the abuse of the police powers and members of the police force on account of instructions from Ernest Mhambare who boasts of having some of the police officers in his pocket.

“Our clients are part of a group of worshippers who do not subscribe to being led by one Ernest Mhambare who sought to wrestle the leadership role of the African Apostolic Church from Archbishop Ernest Paul Mamvura Mwazha.

“The only leader who is accepted as the leader of that church is Archbishop Ernest Paul Mamvura Mwazha and no one else.”

During the previous succession squabble, which was eventually quashed by a supreme court ruling that recognised Archbishop Mwazha’s leadership, the Kushamisa-led faction admitted that Archbishop Mwazha was frail due to age but insisted that the centurion was in full control of his faculties and of sound mind.

Mhambare’s faction, on the other hand, argued that Mwazha had dementia and was therefore unable to govern the Church.

Over the decades, AAC has remained a key religious ally to Zanu PF, playing an important role in soliciting votes from members in favour of the ruling party. –

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