Within a relatively short period of time, prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa has established one of the biggest Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe, United Family Interdenominational Ministries (UFIM). Originally a young pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM), he founded the new movement in the years 2008-2010. His controversial public healing sessions and prophecies have won him both supporters and critics. In early August 2011, he left Zimbabwe for unclear reasons, variously attributed to controversy over his new spiritual-airtime program or personal vacation.
Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa (also known as Shingirai Chirume) was born in December 1977 into a family of small farmers. His parents are elders in the Apostolic Faith Mission Church in Muzarabani district of Mashonaland Central Province. In 1993, Makandiwa and other boys of his age spent six months with the late pastor Mukwaira on “crusades”.
Makandiwa, after completing his secondary education at Zengeza High school in Chitungwiza, returned to help his parents till the land. In Muzarabani, Makandiwa started taking God’s word seriously and the next four years turned his life around.
With his parents he organised gospel crusades and preached from home. In 1995, he was reportedly called in a vision by God to deliver his people from the bondage of Satan and teamed up with local AFM Pastor Rev. Munyengeterwa on gospel crusades.
In 2000, Makandiwa enrolled at the AFM’s Living Waters Theological Seminary in Harare, graduating in 2002. During the same year, he married Ruth Makawa.
After finishing his pastoral studies, Rev Makandiwa chose to go to Matabeleland and worked as an assistant pastor under the supervision of Rev. Madzivire, who is now the president of AFM.
After ordination, he was given an assembly in Shangani, where he became the talk of the neighbourhood with his demonstrations of the power of God. In 2004, he was transferred to How Mine and subsequently to Hebron Assembly in Chitungwiza.
UFIM, the religious community currently led by Makandiwa, was launched in August 2008 as a lunch-hour fellowship at the Anglican Cathedral in Harare. The fellowship was so popular, that after only a week at the cathedral, it moved to the State Lotteries Hall and subsequently to the City Sports Centre.
Growing tension between the AFM leadership and Makandiwa led to him being asked to choose between the UFIM and AFM. In 2010, United Family International Ministries, which comprises the United Family Interdenominational Ministries and the United Family International Church, was formed. The Interdenominational ministry is the mother ministry of the other ministries and arms, which fall under the United Family International Ministries. Makandiwa’s wife, Pastor Ruth Makandiwa heads the charity ministry in UFIM, supporting widows and orphans financially and materially.
There are those who claim that his expulsion from the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) was a result of serious differences over the source of his “healing” powers, while other churches accuse him of “stealing their people”.
Always controversial, some men have gone so far as to accuse him of ruining their marriages by exposing their extra-marital affairs to their wives through his prophecies. His followers say these allegations are a result of jealousy.
In one of prophet Makandiwa’s healing sessions on November 12, 2010, a 66-year-old woman, Rhoda Mafungautse died after having travelled from Chinhoyi to have her leg healed. Eyewitnesses present said Rhoda limped off to her death after the prophet had attempted to perform one of his “miracles” on her.
On March 1, 2011, Emmanuel Makandiwa officiated at the launch of the Zanu-PF anti-sanctions campaign and signed the petition against the travel restrictions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF members. Makandiwa became one of several high-profile religious leaders to join the anti-sanctions campaign. Others include the Anglican faction leader Nobert Kunonga, Pentecostal Assembly of Zimbabwe’s Trevor Manhanga, and African Apostolic Church leader Paul Mwazha.
On July 26, 2011, his church launched a program of “spiritual airtime cards” which generated controversy in business and legal circles. Makandiwa left the country the following week, citing personal reasons for visiting his spiritual father and vacation for his family.
In spite of the debate surrounding prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and his ministry, he is without a doubt a crowd-puller, who has a significant role in the preaching of the Gospel in Zimbabwe.