ONE of Zimbabwe’s oldest churches, the Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa International (AFM) in Lobengula, Bulawayo, could be headed for a split amid reports of tribalism and death threats.
The church’s overseer Tony Tshuma is accused of fraudulently taking over the reins in 2008 and abusing church funds while threatening those against his leadership with either death or expulsion.
Tshuma is also accused of allegedly grabbing Lydead Range Farm in Gwanda owned by the church.
His son Joseph faces similar charges of threatening church members.
Joseph, who is also a Zanu PF activist, is accused of threatening to use his political connections to deal with congregants who opposed his father’s continued leadership of the church.
However, Joseph — who is reportedly in charge of the church’s farm — yesterday leapt to his father’s defence and denied interfering with operations of the church or grabbing the farm.
He said infighting in the church was on tribal grounds, adding that some congregants were mobilising for his father’s ouster because they did not want to be led by a Ndebele.
“Why were they quiet all along only to come out now to say my father was illegally appointed the church overseer in 2008?
“My father has presided over the church since 2008 and in those years there was never such talk of him having assumed leadership fraudulently.
“There are people who want to take control of the church and are mobilising other congregants to support their moves,” Joseph said in an interview yesterday.
Church members alleged that Tshuma and his son “have personalised the church and its properties”, but Joseph dismissed the charge.
“It boggles the mind why one would accuse my father of stealing church funds at 90 years of age unless for sinister motives,” he said.
“There are some congregants who are trying to divide the church along tribal lines. They are saying they cannot be led by a Ndebele and are busy mobilising others to divide or destroy the church.
“The church has grown so big that some members are now causing these problems so that they can take control and dip their hands into the church finances.
“They are after money. Our family has never taken a cent from the church.
“We (family) gave up everything we had and donated to the church; everything is documented; the books are available for inspection and those that accuse us of stealing can check with the finance department,” Joseph said.
According to some church members, Tshuma was not supposed to be the overseer after the death of church leader Philemon Sibanda in 2008.
Church members alleged that Tshuma was illegally appointed in violation of the church’s constitution. Joseph, however, said his father never wanted to be the church’s overseer, but was anointed by the late Sibanda.
“There is documented evidence and DVDs on how my father became the overseer of the church,” Joseph said.
“He was chosen by Sibanda to take over before he died. He was refusing to take over and had to be persuaded by the local, South African and Botswana church boards.”