CONGREGANTS attending the annual pilgrimage at African Apostolic Church’s Mapembe Shrine in Odzi near Mutare endured untold frustration on their way in a nasty turn of events in the battle to control the Archbishop Paul Mwazha-led church.
The annual pilgrimage, which was held simultaneously with Archbishop Mwazha’s birthday celebrations, saw more than 10 000 congregants turning out for the three-day event that started last week on Thursday and ended on Saturday.
The Manica Post established that some motorists driving to Mapembe Shrine were selectively stopped, thoroughly searched, and others spent the night at traffic check points after a fallout with law enforcement agents.
Congregants who attended the pilgrimage confided in this newspaper that they went through countless incidences of interrogations, accusations and frustration, especially at police roadblocks.
Mr Joshua Daka, who drove all the way from Karoi for the Mapembe Shrine pilgrimage, said: “We endured a difficult time on our way. It was really sad to see some traffic officers frustrating us as if they were clearly under instructions to do so. As we drove from Karoi, our worst experience was in Macheke where we were harassed at two roadblocks.”
Chengetai Sithole, who drove with his family from Mt Darwin, said: “I also encountered problems in Macheke. We literally slept at the Macheke roadblock. It was a nasty experience that we least expected. What surprised us was that the officers were accusing us of being ‘tsindondi’ and telling us not to trouble ourselves since we do not have many people behind us. They actually spoke with authority on internal matters of our church.”
‘Tsindondi’ is a term used in the African Apostolic Church to refer to those who subscribe to prayers in the mountains, itself a concept that remains a bone of contention between the feuding parties.
Contacted for comment, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said: “It is difficult to comment on that because it depends on whether they (congregants) lodged formal complaints, when and at which police station. That is the only way we can ascertain the genuineness of their plight and take appropriate action.”
However, after all these tribulations along the way, the congregants had memorable celebrations of their ageing leader’s birthday.
Archbishop Mwazha turned 103 on October 25.
African Apostolic Church board chairman, Bishop Elson Tafa, said: “We are here for our annual pilgrimage as well as celebrating the life of our great leader — Archbishop Paul Mwazha. We continue observing peace.
“Naturally, we are not extroverts, and we prefer doing our core business of prayer and preaching the Word of God. Even after so many things have happened, we chose to remain silent, and hope that the One above will knock sense into those fighting us.”
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa did not mince her words on the need for all African Apostolic Church members to unite for the sake of their ageing leader.
“Archbishop Paul Mwazha is a servant of God whose religious works have managed to build a better Zimbabwe. We honour him, and we hope that those who will take over from him will emulate his good works. Leaders in the African Apostolic Church must unite and pull in one direction for the sake of the religious icon, Archbishop Paul Mwazha.
“The 103 birthday is a significant hallmark in the history of Archbishop Paul Mwazha of Africa and the African Apostolic Church as a whole. His calling and anointing is without question one of the most remarkable events in contemporary times.
“Therefore, the history of the church he started demands that leaders carry on with his good work in harmony and unity,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
She chronicled the miraculous events that followed Archbishop Mwazha’s birth as written in the church’s history books.
“History faithfully records that on October 25, 1918, a baby boy was born to Saramina Mwazha at Holy Cross Mission in Chirumanzu District. Soon after delivery, the baby died of influenza, and its mother took the body to the temple for baptism before burial, as was prescribed by the Roman Catholic practice and tradition.
“Father Schimtz took the dead baby and christened him Paul. After baptism, the baby woke up.
“All those who were in the church were shocked, and instantly proclaimed the baby had been risen from the dead for great work ahead of him. Indeed, at just 16 years of age, the archbishop began his missionary journey,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa commended the African Apostolic Church for its support to Government programmes.