It is now common that when the head of a Ministry in Zimbabwe grows old, rumors of the next contender start filtering. The sheep start turning on each other’s throats over who is entitled to shepherd the flock. Men of cloths that preach against violence turn shrines into Wrestlemania. Even the despised Pontius Pilate, Herodias, and Ceasar are called in to intervene. Many churches in Zimbabwe are experiencing succession battles that are likely to split congregates. These are the reasons why succession battles are taking place in Zimbabwean Churches.
Researchers have all agreed that Churches in Zimbabwe have no succession plan hence the battles when it comes to who takes over next. Noone can answer who the next successor is in most Churches. Loshick Nhumburudzi and Jeffrey Kurebwa who have been researching on the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA) Church say:
“In ZAOGA, succession was a hidden issue from the general membership who were living in speculation. This confirms the assumption of that there was no clear succession in Zimbabwe’s Pentecostalism.”
Currently, local media has been reporting about a group that has taken hostage of ZAOGA’s founding father Apostle Ezekiel Guti as succession battles come to light in the public domain. With no clear succession plan, Churches are likely to face chaos when it comes to succession.
The other challenge that has faced Zimbabwe’s Churches when it comes to succession is the lack of oversight structures. Researchers Mangaliso M. Matshobane and Maake Masango say those Churches that have oversight structures have a ceremonial relationship where the oversight structure is recognized by the congregation but does not have the authority to arbitrate.
“Those oversight structures that have the authority to arbitrate tend to over-reach their exercise of authority because of a lack of clear demarcated lines of authority. The latter is what makes most principal leaders uncomfortable with having an oversight structure.” Masango says.
This could explain why the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church has resulted in a split on the way forward in terms of leadership.
One other challenge Zimbabwean Churches are facing is that of leaders overstaying in power. This was adopted from the Shona traditional societies where the position of the chief was not to be contested and would only be removed by death according to Clement Makamure, a researcher on the Zion Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe.
“When the bishop overstays in power, a lot of unrest and uncertainty among potential successors and onlookers is created as they try to visualize what the future will hold for them,” he said.
This has caused a split in AFM. Archbishop Paul Mwazha’s African Apostolic Church also faces the same challenge with two factions already at war. ZAOGA too has witnessed the rise of the G40 according to media reports which is already positioning itself to take over from Guti.
The succession battles are something that is a societal issue. It’s not relegated to the Churches only but even political parties and chieftainship. The main opposition party MDC split into two after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai after a battle between Thokozani Khuphe and Nelson Chamisa. The ruling party has also witnessed the same fate with factional battles between a faction called Lacoste and the other one ironically called the G40. Media reports seem to imply that ZAOGA’s G40 could be copying strategies from the ruling party’s G40.