Reverend Mashudu Tshikororo is a member of the interim committee and the church's spokesperson. Photo supplied.
More than three months have passed since the leader of the United African Apostolic Church (UAAC), Dr Elias Miriri, died. The UAAC now seems to be divided, with at least two factions claiming to be running the church.
Two weeks ago the Miriri family called for an emergency meeting at the church’s headquarters in Ha-Mavhunga, Nzhelele. The meeting was attended by the bishops from all branches around the SADC region. The emergency meeting seemingly did not manage to resolve the impasse. Another meeting is scheduled for this coming weekend.
A spokesperson for the Miriri family, Mr Paul Miriri, said that the family members were still in a period of mourning. “When the family feels that their father has been respected and mourned enough, we will sit down and decide on who will be the church’s next leader,” he said.
He said they had given an interim national executive committee a mandate to run the church's administration. “The church is working according to the mandate of the interim committee with the bishops and church leaders,” he said.
The UAAC, with its headquarters in Miriri at Ha-Mavhunga, is one of the biggest and oldest Zionist churches in South Africa, with branches in several parts of the country and in southern African countries.
However, since the funeral of its leader, the church has allegedly been plagued by divisions. This was apparently sparked by the dissolution of the previous national executive committee that was led by Archbishop Miriri.
Meetings are held separately with an interim committee holding its meetings inside the church headquarters while the previous committee holds its meeting in a certain building outside the church.
The interim committee's spokesperson, Reverend Mashudu Tshikororo, said that the family had met with them on the 23rd of last month. He said the family had given them the mandate to lead the church's administration until they decided on who would replace the Archbishop.
The interim committee is led by chairperson Chief Livhuwani Matsila, deputy chairperson Pastor Thizwilondi Matodzi, general secretary Mr Alfred Netshisumbewa, deputy secretary Mrs Lesoga, treasurer Mrs Matodzi Langa, organiser Jethro Elisa Thidiela with additional members. Another 40 district councillors also form part of the interim committee.
“The interim committee will be dissolved when the new archbishop is sworn in. He will then elect his own committee,” he said. Reverend Tshikororo said the church constitution allowed the family to take over if the leader passed away.
According to him, the other committee is not involved with the family.
He said the royal family had the final word on the administration. “Most churches were started by families and it is not different with this one; the bishop should be elected by the family.”
Tshikororo said that they had numerous plans for the church, and they would start with road shows, visiting all the branches where they would inform the congregants about developments and their vision.
When asked about the meeting held outside, he said everyone had rights according to the Constitution of the country and they would not stop anyone from doing so. “Even the Bible says it in Mark 3, verse 24 that if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand," he said.
Mbulaheni Nenzhelele, who was the church’s spokesperson and a member of the (former) national executive committee, differed with the members of the interim committee, describing them as illegitimate and not in line with the constitution of the church.
He said since it had been done even before the Archbishop had passed away, the committee would not be dissolved but would continue to run the administration of the church until the family appointed a new Archbishop, who would then select his own committee.
“Our committee is legal, as it was elected by the Archbishop himself and should continue until the family chooses the new church leader,” he said.
He claimed that the interim committee had been elected by people who were not recognised by the church and that it was an illegitimate structure. He said the majority of the recognised people were siding with his committee.
“Yes, the family members select the church leader, but they don’t have the power to elect an interim committee,” said Nenzhelele.
He said the interim committee was hijacking the church. “Even the structure of the royal family wasn’t there. It was only started after the death of Archbishop Dr Miriri,” he said.
Date:07 April 2019 - By: Phathutshedzo Luvhengo