Among some of the notable people interviewed through the National Archives of Zimbabwe's Oral History Programme in the mid-1990s was Reverend E.T.J. Nemapare, founder of the African Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. Having been trained and ordained as a Wesleyan Methodist Church Minister in the 1930s, he later broke away to form his own church.
Reverend Nemapare died in February 2003, leaving behind a church based in the rural district of Chirumhanzu in Masvingo province, and other branches in Bulawayo. Like him, several other ministers and lay people in many parts of Africa in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century broke away from the established churches and started their own. Many of these leaders based their operations in rural areas where they had already been active under the mother churches, or in their home areas where they were well known.
Most of the founders of these separatist churches have now passed on, leaving their churches in the hands of sons, close relatives or associates, but the whereabouts of their early records, showing why they broke away, and how they set up and managed their churches, are largely unknown. There is an urgent need to locate these archives, mainly in rural areas or small towns, and negotiate ways of rescuing them from total loss.
This pilot project will find out the extent of the archives in question, and the possibility of transferring the archives for safe custody at the National Archives of Zimbabwe. The project will initially start with locating the papers of Rev. Nemapare and then those of others like him, determine the quantities involved and their condition, initiate contacts with the people in charge, and prepare the groundwork for a major project if the results indicate that course.
14 Independent African churches were visited throughout Zimbabwe and interviews were held either with founders or church leaders. The following churches were visited:
Unfortunately, even where archives were identified as being in existence, it proved not to be possible to access any of these archives. Other churches contacted in addition to those listed above did not even wish to have any contact with the project. It proved to be very difficult to demonstrate the aims of the project and what the benefits would be for the church. The project failed therefore in its aim to survey the condition of the archives and the value of information contained within.