The Sunday News
Mkhululi Ncube, Sunday News Reporter
INFIGHTING within the Guta Ramwari Church which started after the death of its founder in 2003 resulting in the disintegration of the church into different factions continues with another split seemingly imminent.
The fights have produced different break-away factions and branches in Tshabalala, Nkulumane and Mpopoma in Bulawayo.
The recent fight centres on the appointment of evangelist, Joseph Tayali as the leader of the church, a move that has been fiercely opposed by another faction that says his appointment was irregular. The fights have seen verbal accusations and counter-accusations as well as threats of violence flying thick and fast with audios of insults circulating within the church`s social media platforms.
A number of congregants have reportedly stopped attending the church due to the continuous fights and an unhealthy violence charged atmosphere during services. While no faction seems prepared to move out of the prayer hall in Lobengula, the factions are also not agreed on having different services at the venue. Chairman of the Guta Ramwari, Evangelist Gibson Ngwenya confirmed the fights within the church and said they were not limited to the appointment of Evangelist Tayali.
“There are a lot of things which are affecting us and this fight over Evangelist Tayali leadership is just a tip of the iceberg. The fight over Evangelist Tayali started last year after a decision to appoint him was taken but before that we have been having problems with the other faction because we seem not to agree with them on anything. We are looking at how best we can conduct our services peacefully because people are tired of what is happening. We have proposed we conduct services at different times but the other faction is refusing,” he said.
Evangelist Ngwenya said the problems were limited to the Lobengula headquarters as other local branches were conducting services peacefully. He said while initially Evangelist Tayali refused to take up leadership, the congregants pushed for it as there was a vacuum in the running of the church.
“The congregants realised that the easiest way to solve the issue was to have him to be the head of the denomination, not that he takes over from the Holy Host but on certain issues that require some advice which he would proffer with the support of the supreme council.
“When the decision was taken, we had representatives of all branches both within and outside the country who congregated at our holy shrine in Nyazura. The people who are opposing this are opposing a decision taken by thousands of people while they are just a handful,” he said.
Secretary for the church, Evangelist Calvin Chauke said the problem began soon after the death of the founder as it created a vacuum. He said the supreme council of the church composed of the founder`s family and the 12 chosen families which were spiritually at the helm of the church became divided which resulted in the disintegration of the church.
“We had a challenge in that that council was divided upon the passing on of the founder as members picked sides. Some of the members who did not like the host family moved to Tshabalala and formed their own church. There were other fights resulting in others moving to Mpopoma but they could not move us out of the church.
“There was another group which started a fight with the remaining faction of the supreme council which kicked them out and started worshiping at 10am. They even took us to court in trying to evict us but they failed.
“The faction that went to Tshabalala kicked out seven members from the administrative council they were working with. Our supreme council led by Evangelist Joseph Tayali and Evangelist Tawodzera took them in after pitying them and appointed them into the current administrative council. Five of them remain following the death of two and these are the same people who are giving us problems. We have had a scenario where our supreme council makes decisions and the rest of the congregation and branches are happy but these five refuse and have started recruiting people within the church to oppose whatever the supreme council says,” he said.
Evangelist Chauke said the other faction was now using threats of violence, adding that they were not taking them likely.
He alleged ever since the seven were welcomed back into the fold, the church has not registered any progress due to bickering, adding that two weeks ago they had a meeting where they proposed that they hold services at different times but they refused declaring that they do not recognise Evangelist Tayali`s leadership and the supreme council.
A member of the other faction, Evangelist Stephen Sibanda who is also the chairperson of standing rules and orders of the church said the appointment of Evangelist Tayali was illegal. Evangelist Sibanda is said to be the leader of the other faction and is accused of refusing to allow any other member to read the church`s standing rules and orders saying it is only his prerogative.
“Leadership at Guta Ramwari is collective and is taken by the evangelists, this is what our standing orders say. Those who want to bring a new thing must call a meeting of all evangelists, they have the power to accept or refuse.
“The decision they made was illegal because it was not taken with the approved body of the church. Even the person who called the meeting and the one who made the announcement of the decision they took all do not have the right to do so. Our standing orders are like the Bible and no one has the power to introduce a new thing,” he said.
He said he had tried to bring peace within the church and to individual members as the fights have also become personal to no avail. Evangelist Sibanda said their standing orders do not allow them to worship at different times as worship times were set by their founder.
“We cannot change times of worship to accommodate the factions because our rule book does not allow that. We have many sects now because those who could not agree with us left and formed their own groups. Those who cannot keep with us are better off moving out to do as they please.
“We have to come to an understanding because violence both in the church and outside is illegal. Evangelist Tayali told me that people had chosen him to lead but that should be the decision of the evangelist forum,” he said.
When reached for comment Evangelist Tayali confirmed he was appointed leader but declined to speak saying the chairman and secretary will speak on his behalf.
The church was formed in 1961 by Taxwell Tayali who passed away in 2003 and since then, the church had not known peace and stability.–@themkhust