The Sunday News
IN November last year, the country and the world at large were shocked when a retired Anglican cleric Reverend Lazarus Muyambi dug a grave inside a school chapel and buried his wife.
The Anglican church condemned the move and quickly cut ties with the controversial cleric. Since last year, people have been scratching their heads trying to understand why the man of cloth could do such a thing. Last week, Sunday News tracked the retired cleric to his Gokwe base to find out more about the “untraditional” burial.
After travelling about 220 kilometres to Gokwe South, the crew got to Gokwe St Agnes Children’s Home, Healing School where a guard was manning the entrance and was asked a lot of questions before it could be allowed in, but not before being misled that the Reverend was not around and instead the crew could only see the school head. However, the crew drove to the school’s chapel where it was directed to the Reverend’s house where locals prefer to call him Baba Muyambi. When the crew got to the house, it was welcomed by Sister Febby Chakadai who now lives with the widower, Rev Muyambi and was led into the house where the now retired priest was having breakfast. After some introductions, Rev Muyambi started narrating how he established the Anglican Church in Gokwe.
“I came here with my wife Neddy in 1972 with our four children after I married her in 1960. I was coming from Botswana where I had been posted by the church after I was involved in the revolutionary movement together with Rev Canaan Banana while I was in Hwange,” he said.
Rev Muyambi, a teacher by profession, said he together with his wife established the Anglican Church in Gokwe and built schools, clinics and churches including the popular exorcism centre for the mentally challenged.
“I was working with the local authority here and I requested for land and I started developing the area. I built three churches here including a chapel with the help of my wife and we helped a lot of mentally challenged people and exorcised people practising witchcraft,” he said.
Rev Muyambi said when his wife died last month he felt it would be more prudent for him to bury her inside the school chapel as an honour for the support she has shown him and the church.
He was quick to point out that the chapel was his personal property, therefore the church had no authority over his private property. This is despite the chapel being used by school pupils for morning and evening prayers and sometimes church services.
“There has been a very big misconception that I buried my wife in church. I buried her in the chapel not church. This is my chapel which does not belong to the church. This is a tradition practised by Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. I have blessings from America, Europe and neighbouring countries. There is nothing wrong with what I did. If you want I will take you to the chapel and see for yourself,” he said.
However, according to traditional Roman Catholic laws, only monks, bishops and martyrs were be buried in the church in close proximity with the holy or royal place. Rev Muyambi said he was aware that people had expressed mixed feeling over his actions but said he does not regret burying his wife in the chapel and will never exhume her.
“There are so many people who came here to try and understand what happened. The police were here, Chief Njelele was here and several other people from Government and the church. At some point our Bishop was against the idea but faced strong resistance from other church members,” he said.
“Some members of my church wanted to take the school and other properties I built claiming that they belong to the church and I refused because I did not build them using money from church. That is why most of them were peddling those falsehoods in an attempt to tarnish my image,” he said.
The man of cloth added that he was in the process of taking legal action against a funeral parlour personnel who took pictures of the grave and started circulating them on social media.
Members of the church said they had no problem with what Rev Muyambi did. Sister Chakadai, who was longing to be part of the discussion, said the church and school authorities had no problem with having Mrs Muyambi buried in church.
“This issue has been blown out of proportion. We as church members we do not have problems with what happened. People attend church services in another church and there are three of them here. This is his private property,” she said.