THERE was pandemonium at United Methodist Church’s Stream View Circuit in Chikanga, Mutare, last Sunday when relatives of the reverend in charge stormed the church and sought to manhandle him over a family dispute.
Witnesses allege that a group of Reverend Blessing Saunyama’s relatives arrived at the church around midday when the man of cloth was conducting a church service and demanded to be given a chance to air their grievances against the reverend whom they alleged was causing mayhem in the family through ungodly acts, bordering on wizardry.
It is alleged that when the responsible authorities denied the relatives access to the pulpit, commotion erupted with the men shouting obscenities and threatening to assault the reverend.
They accused the clergyman of causing the death of several family members.
Devout church members would not have it as they retaliated and a fight erupted during the church service.
“The reverend was whisked out of the church by congregants as the marauding group was baying for his blood. Some are alleging that he received a few blows from the angry men, but I did not see it. What I know is that church elders are the ones who ended up receiving beatings from the relatives who were angry that they (elders) had helped Rev Saunyama escape.
“Something serious would have happened if the group had managed to corner Rev Saunyama as they were seething with anger,” said a church member who requested anonymity.
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Another church member said the family members claimed to have travelled from their rural home to confront the reverend over countless deaths being recorded in their family.
“They said something about having come from Mutasa or Nyanga, I do not remember very well. They shouted obscenities and accused the reverend of causing deaths within their family. They were just livid. Police had to be called in to quell the disturbances,” said the woman.
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Rev Saunyama denied the allegations that he was assaulted by his relatives.
“I was never beaten up. Nobody touched me during the disturbances. I am okay emotionally and physically,” he said before referring the reporter to speak to one of the church’s lay leaders, Mr Tinashe Madziwa.
“Lay leaders are the ones who can give you an official, factual and detailed report of the incident,” he said.
However, Mr Madziwa’s phone was unreachable.
United Methodist Church spokesperson, Reverend Alan Gurupira referred the reporter to Mutare District Superintendent, Reverend Tendai Makono, who said the church is still conducting investigations into the matter.
“I have no finer details on the matter at the moment, but I am currently in the process of finding out what really happened. I will get back to you after getting hold of Reverend Gurupira,” he said.
Approached for comment, Mai Mawoyo who stays at the church, said she was not at liberty to share any information pertaining to the incident with the Press.
“We do not know anything. Whatever you have heard, we will neither confirm nor deny because we are not part of it. It would be best for you to call the Reverend; he will tell you whether it happened or not. We do not know anything,” she said.
Asked whether accusations that the reverend keeps clay pots with flowers inside the church were true, the woman invited the reporters to check for themselves inside the church.
Inside the church building, which is still under construction, were benches and a pulpit.
No clay pots were in sight.
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Nobert Muzondo could neither confirm nor deny the mayhem at the church.
He said the report had not yet reached his office and promised to look into it.
Videos of the incident have since gone viral on social media.
Vendors who sell their wares near the church said they saw people storming out of the church exchanging blows.
A vendor, Mr Cephas Dhliwayo said he was alerted that there was a fight at the church by two men who came out dragging one man and assaulting him.
“It was chaos outside the church. Church members were exchanging blows with Rev Saunyama’s relatives. Police arrived and escorted the relatives to Chikanga Police Station. I am not sure what caused the fracas as I was not in the church.
“I only heard that the reverend was at the centre of the mayhem, with his relatives labelling him a wizard,” said Mr Dhliwayo.-Manica Post