Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
Leader of one the biggest indigenous apostolic churches in Zimbabwe, Bishop Paul Mwazha, on October 25 clocked a century on earth.
The man is known by many as a strict follower of the Word, building a unique religious organisation which has remained intact over the years.
His status as the leader of the African Apostolic Church has been at the core of his public image but beyond leading his million plus congregation, there is more to the revered Mwazha, the family man.
Besides being a cleric (Mudzidzisi) whose attention is sought after by many on a daily basis, Mwazha always had time for his children as they grew up.
His daughter Mary (58) said Mwazha has always been friends with his children.
“Our father balanced his life very well, after church we will be back to being a family again, He always had time for us even before we moved to Harare,” she said, reminiscing of the time they lived in Chisarauta village in Chikomba District.
Even after he moved to Harare with business interests at Chikwanha shops and other areas, Mwazha still found time for his family.
“He would personally roast maize for us during evenings, telling us about his days as well as teaching us about the Word. He has always treated us equally, even up to now I can sit down and talk to him about anything,” Mary said.
Even though he ran a church, Mwazha had no problem with his children pursuing paths seemingly parallel to his.
“He allowed us to make our own decisions, especially when it came to matters of faith. My husband is not from the African Apostolic Church but my father accepted him,” she said.
Mary says for as long as she remembers they always cooked meals in three- legged pots to accommodate relations and church members who always graced their home.
Even at his advanced age, Mwazha still has the energy and drive for a busy lifestyle. He takes a walk in his Hatfield neighbourhood in Harare every morning around 10am. After doing the rounds, he returns home to rest.
But the demanding nature of his ministry has seen him delegate some of the duties to his sons and other senior members of the church.
Tawanda Mwazha (42), who will be taking over as the church’s bishop, said they were raised to be God fearing.
“Father is a God-fearing man who raised us to be principled. It was difficult to separate Mudzidzisi (Mwazha as a pastoral leader) and baba (as a family father figure) although he maintained his care,” he said.
It was decided earlier this year that Tawanda will take over from his father as spiritual leader.
His brother, Chiseko Mwazha, is now the chairman of the board of trustees, which provides an oversight role over the church’s day-to-day affairs.
Then there is the executive, including church elders and all of Mwazha’s sons, which will be aiding the heir, as well as the board in their operations.
Although Mwazha’s detachment from the secular world is well documented, he did not compromise on education.
“Father valued education, he sent all of us to school to levels we desired. I am a holder of four degrees and a master’s degree as a result of his support of my academic pursuits,” said Tawanda, who is an engineer.
Mwazha shunned secular pursuits in the 1980s and minimised his consumption of entertainment media content to thin levels.
“Since I was born, I have only known my father to own one television which he sold around 1988. Since then he has not owned a television. To stay abreast with the world he would listen to the radio on the hour to hear the news and read the newspaper in the morning,” Mwazha’s son said.
According to him, their father stopped listening to the radio religiously in the early 2000s and only listens to recorded church sermons these days.
Although many accounts on Mwazha are that of a silky soft character, Tawanda recalls the time he drew his father’s ire.
“I remember the time I made father angry. We were supposed to go to church and I stayed behind saying I would herd cattle. Instead, I went to play football and when he came back the cattle were feasting in the field. I received quite a lashing,” Tawanda said with a chuckle.
In April 2017, Mwazha’s wife Joyce passed on and there were fears he could not cope with the loss of a life-long companion but his family says he is handling the loss well.
“He was down for a while it got to him. Obviously he had many questions but because of the support base he has around him he made peace with the loss and accepted that it was God`s will,” Tawanda said.
Mwazha is widely known as a deeply spiritual and resilient figure. His tough and unbowing spirit has seen him enjoying a huge following.
“One thing he has been able to do over the years is to handle tough situations with remarkable ease. He never shows signs of strain even when he is under pressure which would normally stress other people. It was just recently that he began delegating some of the ministry duties to me but before that, he wanted to be hands on,” Tawanda said.
He added: “When we used to travel doing ministry work, he would ask of our next destination barely a day after arriving from a trip. He is a workaholic.”
Paul Mwazha’s shoes are too big for Tawanda, who has a lot to learn from his father’s larger than life character.
A man with a history as illustrious as Paul Mwazha’s is not easy to replace in any capacity.
Born Mamvura Mwazha on October 25, 1918 in Chirumhanzu in the Midlands Province, he is said to have “died” from influenza and resurrected at a young age.
He was once a teacher and businessman before he abandoned his earthly pursuits to answer his divine call.
Mwazha once remarked that: “I would rather have the church instead of wealth so that I may build the church of Christ.”
In 1959, he formed the African Apostolic Church, which has grown to be a well-organised indigenous apostolic church with a board that oversees its running.
Today, the church has a membership of a million people, stretching to all continents.
Even in his old age, Mwazha is still interested in nurturing life and up until recently he would wake up to water his garden, a habit he developed when he was a master farmer.
Many stories have been told of how great the man is but the often overlooked factor has been how he has been a present father in the lives of all his 14 children.
When The Herald inquired, it was unclear how many great-grandchildren the centenarian has but his first great- grandchild has a grandchild of is own, a sign of longevity, and a lineage well preserved.