UNITED Church of Zambia (UCZ) Matero congregation members yesterday burnt tyres and fought with police as they protested demanding the removal of presiding Reverend John Mukuka Mwelwa whom they accused of infidelity and abuse of church funds.
The fracas, which disrupted normal Sunday services, erupted when the members, mostly youths, ganged up at the church’s main gate to block Rev Mwelwa from entering the premises.
The protesters, who resolved not to allow Rev Mwelwa to conduct any service, threatened to physically ‘deal with him’ if he entered the premises.
Quick action by police officers from Matero police station prevented the protesters from causing damage.
The rioters accused Rev Mwelwa of infidelity with women seeking marriage counselling from him.
Among the protesters were young women, some of whom claimed to have spurned the reverend’s overtures.
“If you want to get married, you have to inform the reverend so that he announces publicly during church service but when you go to him, he starts making advances,” one of the protesters, who sought anonymity, said.
The protesters also accused Rev Mwelwa of impropriety.
Some of the protesters said when preaching, Rev Mwelwa allegedly brags about his material wealth.
“He boasts that we should not accuse him of stealing church money because he has his own money and that he cannot suffer even if he stops preaching today,” one of the protesters said.
Another woman alleged that Rev Mwelwa has been diverting building materials meant for pending church projects to construct his personal house.
“As a reverend, he is not supposed to handle any money meant for construction projects because there is a committee in charge of that. But he keeps all the money and when he buys building material, he takes some of it to his plot,” she said.
Several members talked to said although the youth started the protest, almost all member are behind it.
Some UCZ leaders later called for a meeting to ease flaring tempers but the members maintained their demand for Rev Mwelwa’s removal.
Addressing the meeting, Lusaka Presbytery Bishop Luckson Chibuye asked the protesters to seek God’s intervention before addressing the issue.
“I was supposed to go for my normal church service at Saint Paul’s but I was called to come here because of this problem. I have heard your demands but you should give me chance to sit with other leaders and sort out this problem.
“At the moment there is nowhere to take Rev Mwelwa. Before he came here, there was a due process that was followed and you must allow that same process to take place before he leaves this congregation,” Bishop Chibuye said amid murmurs of disapproval by the protesters.
He said he and other leaders that accompanied him to the meeting were not infringing on the members’ rights to call for Rev Mwelwa’s removal.
[Zambia Daily Mail]