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Zambesi Conference Church

Photo courtesy of Paminus Machamire.

Zambesi Conference

By Paminus Machamire


Paminus Machamire, D.Min. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan) is currently the vice president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division. He began his ministry as a district pastor in Zimbabwe where he also served as a departmental director at field and union levels. Later, he served as president of East Zimbabwe Field before becoming the Zambezi Union executive secretary, and later union president in Zimbabwe and Botswana. He published a book, The Power of Forgiveness, with the Africa Publishing House.

First Published: January 11, 2022

Zambesi Conference was a church administrative unit of the Zimbabwe Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists from 1929 to 1992.

Origin of Seventh-day Adventist Work in the Territory of the Conference

The Seventh-day Adventist work came to Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) through the initiative of Pieter Wessels and A. T. Robinson, then president of the Cape Conference. In 1894 the two men approached Cecil Rhodes, chairman of the British South Africa Company, requesting a piece of land to start mission work in Southern Rhodesia. Rhodes referred them to Dr. L. S. Jameson, the administrator of Bulawayo, whom he instructed to permit the Adventist representative to select whatever land they needed for their work. Pieter Wessels, A. Druillard, and others selected a 12,000-acre piece of land about 50 kilometers west of Bulawayo. The following year G. B. Tripp was sent from North America to be the first superintendent of the new mission station. In his company were Dr. A. S. Carmichael and W. H. Anderson. The name of the mission station, Matabele Mission, was later changed to Solusi, after a local chief who had helped in its establishment.

From Solusi the work spread to all parts of Southern Rhodesia. However, the main focus was the indigenous people. From 1901 to 1916 the territory was administered by the Southern Africa Union Conference, with headquarters in Cape Town. In 1916 the Zambesi Union Mission was established, with headquarters in Bulawayo to administer the work in Southern Rhodesia and other missions north of South Africa. Its first superintendent was U. Bender, who came from North America. Six months later he was succeeded by W. E. Straw. It was not until 1920 that this new union mission was officially organized by W. H. Branson, the African Division president.

One of the earliest pieces of evidence of the Adventist message’s impact on the European population in Southern Rhodesia was the 1921 baptism of P. Hendrie in Bulawayo. He was the first European convert to Adventism baptized in Zimbabwe. In 1929 churches organized under the name Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference, with a baptized membership of 71 who congregated in two organized churches,1 Jameson Street Church in Bulawayo and, according to Abdullah Ahomed, who later became conference president, the second one was probably Gweru Central Church.2 The administrative office address was 116 Jameson St., Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. It focused on ministering to Europeans in the territory of the Zambesi Union. E. C. Boger, the Zambesi Union Mission President, also served as the first president of the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference.3 He was the only ordained pastor in the Zambesi Conference. One licensed pastor, R. G. Morton, looked after the two churches.

From the organization of the conference, Pastor Boger served as president until 1938. The secretary-treasurer was D. A. Webster. The Executive Committee was comprised of E. C. Boger, R. G. Morton, P. W. Hendrie, W. G. Webster, and D. A. Webster. In 1931 Pastor A. N. Ingle of Salisbury (present-day Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe) was voted to be a committee member.4 A church school was established January 23, 1930, with 17 students at 116 Jameson Street, Bulawayo. The first teacher was Miss Purchase.5 A year later she was replaced by Gwen Tarr,6 with 16 students.7

In 1931 the conference’s services were extended to other people who lived in Bechuanaland and Northern and Southern Rhodesia with a population of 19,928. That brought the total membership to 130 who worshiped in three churches.8 As of July 1, 1934, the Bechuanaland Protectorate was transferred from Zambesi Union Mission to Southern African Union Conference. This move made it necessary for the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference to change its name to Rhodesia Conference (covering Northern and Southern Rhodesia).9 In the proceedings of the same meeting, the territory of the Rhodesia Conference was expanded to include the Belgian Congo (present-day Democratic Republic of Congo) and Portuguese East Africa (present-day Mozambique), covering 1,700,273 square kilometers. The membership increased to 168, in three churches. The Rhodesia Conference was operated as a regional conference that focused on working among the three racial groups.10 In 1938 the Belgian Congo was dropped from this conference.11 The territorial realignment of 1946 brought Bechuanaland back to the Rhodesia Conference, which led to a re-adoption of the original name, Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference.12

Organizational History

The Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference was organized in 1929 as an attempt to minister to a population of 89,182 Europeans who lived in the countries of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and Bechuanaland (Botswana), an area of 1,295 square kilometers.13 The election of G. R. Nash as president and B. Searle as Secretary-Treasurer in 1938 saw the first change in the officers since its organization. Miss R. Staples served as the church-school teacher at the first Adventist primary school established in Bulawayo. In 1945 new officers W. D. Eva, president, and A. Siepman, secretary-treasurer, were elected and Mrs. I. Mason continued as the church-school teacher.14

During the months of January to March 1930 A. N. Ingle conducted an evangelistic campaign in Salisbury, baptizing a record 18 persons. Among the baptized were five married couples. Several others made decisions to join the Bible class and prepare for the next baptism. The Salisbury Church was organized on the Sabbath following the first baptism, with a membership of 25, a big boost for the young conference. There was a shortfall of only 35 shillings to make the evangelistic campaign entirely self-supporting.15

According to the 1929 statistical report, the membership of Black churches in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, and Malawi was 8,451, including 92 Europeans.16 In 1930 the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference News Notes reported that a first time book sale of £446, was reached within the first three months. During the same period the conference received a tithe of £241-0-8. This was £11-9-2 over and above the budgeted income. Tithe from the Salisbury Church amounted to £149 in the first five months of 1930. The big financial and soul-winning success was attributed to Pastor Ingle's Salisbury effort. The newly baptized members continued to return faithful tithes, which helped the conference to be self-supporting.17

In 1929 Elder C. Robinson observed, “The European workers plan to hold an effort out in the kraals each season, but our chief work is to train and direct the native evangelists and teachers in their work, and after 20 years experience in mission fields, I am persuaded that our native preachers get better results from their preaching to native congregations than the European workers do. This may be because the European workers are not able to stay long in one place, having so many other lines of mission work to attend to; but another reason is that the natives of Africa cannot be hurried into the truth. They take time to digest each phase of the message as it is presented to them, and with many of them it seems necessary to repeat the same thought many times before they can grasp it thoroughly.”18

Pastor Ingle reported on June 16, 1930 that several new members were facing Sabbath-keeping problems. Nonetheless, he arranged for another baptism that September. He also ran Sunday night meetings with an average attendance of 60. Meanwhile Sabbath School attendance had increased to 34. Pastor Ingle also conducted a small evangelistic effort in Marandellas (now Marondera), a town 70 kilometers east of Salisbury (Harare).19 Within two years of its organization the Salisbury Church had its own small church building, with a debt of £275 (see photo).

Elders J. van de Merwe and S. C. Palvie, of the Bechuanaland Mission Field, spent two weeks visiting isolated members of the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference at Kuruman and Vryburg. The members were of good courage and very happy to partake of the ordinances of the Lord after a long time. Some of them traveled as far as 80 kilometers by donkey wagon through the sands of the Kalahari Desert to attend the meetings.20

A church school in Bulawayo progressed well under the leadership of Miss Purchase. In 1930 enrollment grew to 18 upon the arrival of Brother and Sister W. G. Webster from Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).21 The European members in the conference heartily supported Helderberg College in South Africa because they had sixteen students attending that school.22

In 1941 the Salisbury Church of the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference organized a Dorcas Society to minister to the needs of the poor. Sister Wirner was appointed Dorcas leader. After some vigorous fund-raising the Society members started to make handcrafts, which they sold to add to the fund. They were able to raise and send to the General Conference a sum of £117 for the relief of war-distressed members in Europe. This inspired the Dorcas ladies to join hands and continue serving the Lord through meeting other community needs.23

The Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference held its first European camp-meeting at Solusi Mission over the Easter weekend of April 3-6, 1942. This was planned to be an opportunity for conference members to seek the Lord and to grow spiritually.24

The camp meeting was a big success. In attendance were Elder Duncan Eva, the conference evangelist; Elder Austin, superintendent for Northern Rhodesia Field; Elder Curtis, from Nyasaland (Malawi); most of the European mission workers from Southern Rhodesia, and the Solusi Mission workers, making a total of about 80 campers. Elder G. R. Nash, acting conference president, was the main speaker. Campers gained new courage in the Lord and some backsliders were reclaimed. Camp meeting pledges reached a record £110 despite a severe drought, which had resulted in some farmers losing most of their crops.25

The conference continued to grow in membership. On June 26, 1943, the Salisbury Church baptized three new members. A fourth member joined through profession of faith. That same year the conference committee planned a large evangelistic campaign for September in Bulawayo. Elder W. D. Eva was voted to be the speaker, with the assistance of the whole conference workforce.26 The effort brought in nine souls, who were baptized January 12, 1946. Four of the nine were members of one family, a direct result of a worker who gave Bible studies to his brother’s family.27

A third conference camp-meeting was held at Lower Gwelo Mission. Each speaker emphasized its theme, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. . . For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Guest speaker E. D. Hanson presented several inspiring messages on the nearness of Christ's coming. Other preachers were Pastors W. R. Vail, W. D. Eva, C. E. Wheeler, I. B. Burton, P. W. Willmore, and J. M. Staples.

In 1944 the conference raised its highest Harvest Ingathering offering of £1,304, well exceeding their goal of £800. The Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference was the only entity with conference status in the Zambesi Union territory. However, it is interesting to note that in 1944 its Harvest Ingathering goal was £800 and that of Southern Rhodesia Mission was £1,000. Although the mission had more members, the majority of them were peasant farmers, unemployed people, and lowly paid farm or mine workers.28

In 1948 the conference offices moved to Gwelo (Gweru), 164 kilometers from Bulawayo, with E.J. Stevenson as president, M.L. Sanford as secretary-treasurer, and four departments.29 The first junior camp for the conference, attended by 38 young people, was held at the organization’s headquarters at “Xmas Gift” in Gwelo between Christmas and New Year of 1948. Conference M.V. Secretary Elder M. L. Sanford was Camp Director. Union M.V. Secretary A. W. Austen and his accordion-playing wife were in attendance. Guest speaker E. A. Trumper gave talks both in the chapel and at the campfire. Four souls were baptized at the end of the camp.30

The March 26-29, 1948 camp meeting at the conference headquarters in Gweru broke a record for attendance, with approximately 200 present on the Sabbath. Elder W. A. Higgins from the Southern African Division was the guest speaker. He shared the pulpit with Elder W. R. Vail, the Zambesi Union president who also baptized six new members on the last Sunday. At this camp the following offerings were collected: Evangelism Fund - £475, Camp Equipment Fund - £80, Sabbath School Offering - £25, and Camp Meeting Expense Offering - £10.31 The offerings given above indicate clearly that the members of this conference had a burden for evangelism.

In an effort to reach the European community in and around Fort Victoria (now Masvingo), Conference President E. J. Stevenson conducted an evangelistic campaign there during the winter months of 1948. During the campaign the evangelist mobilized Adventists of different racial backgrounds to work together to renovate an old church building the conference had purchased. A church congregation was organized soon after the baptismal service, held October 30, 1948. Elders Vail and Stevenson led out in the services, which culminated with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. A full complement of church officers was chosen, and Elder F.R. Stockil was appointed pastor of the new congregation.32

Establishment of a Conference School

For a long time, conference members discussed establishing a full-fledged boarding school. At the 1949 camp meeting conference workers and the whole constituency decided to raise money for the project. Pastor E. A. Trumper, president of Barotseland Mission in the western part of Northern Rhodesia, pledged to pay the first month salary of the first school principal. One after another the workers and constituency members made generous pledges. In ten minutes more than £700 was raised. The Zambesi Union voted to allocate £150 from the Harvest Ingathering surplus and to appropriate £50 from reserve funds for operations of the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference (Rhobecon) Preparatory School. Further, the union voted to request all fields and institutions in the Zambesi Union Mission to budget for financial assistance to the school in 1950.33 Rhobecon Preparatory School (now Anderson Adventist High School) started as a boarding school, and the government authorized it to offer standards I-VI. Initial enrollment was 30, and John Burns was the first head of the institution.34

On April 11, 1950, the Zambesi Union Executive Committee voted to request the division approve Rhobecon as a denominational institution to qualify it for assistance from the Workers Education Fund.35 That same year the union voted to give Rhobecon School a special appropriation of £50 for operations,36 and in August another £25 for the purchase of laboratory equipment.37 To raise more funds the union voted to sell 1,000 acres from the Nyazura Mission farm at £8,10 per acre with the understanding that this new school would only cater to European students.38 In 1951 the conference received a donation from Michael Hein of 10 acres of land situated about 18 kilometers from Gwelo along the main road to Mvuma, for the relocation of Rhobecon School.39

By 1957 Rhobecon School was well established, with a strong financial footing. Enrollment rose to 63 under five teachers. The school’s spiritual program saw students give their lives to Christ in baptism each year. Its aim was to continue to make a strong impact in the education of young people in Central Africa.40

On March 23-26, 1951, delegates and campers from Botswana and Northern and Southern Rhodesia gathered to attend a camp meeting that was followed by the 10th Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference Session. Men, women, and children camped in tents, caravans, and trucks on Rhobecon School grounds. The camp meeting opened at 11:00 on Friday with an opening message from Elder W. H. Hurlow, the outgoing president. The meeting was declared open by the Mayor of Gwelo, Councilor E. K. Hadley, who welcomed campers and delegates to the city of Gwelo. He commended the work done by Adventists in the Rhodesias.

The General Conference call for evangelism met a ready response from the delegates, who committed themselves to doubling the membership of the conference before the next conference session. They pledged £1,200 for evangelism, Christian education, and missions. Elder Hurlow was asked to serve another term as president, and Elder Bell was elected secretary-treasurer. A spirit of unity and brotherly love reigned at this session.41

In a report at the Zambesi Union Symposium, Hurlow acknowledged that although the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference covered a very large territory, its membership was among the smallest in the world. Its 256 baptized members worshiped in four organized churches and two companies. Due to lack of funds they had not conducted an evangelistic campaign for two years. However, through lay initiatives, nine souls had been baptized in Salisbury and Bulawayo.

The conference worked hard to grow the work in Fort Victoria (Masvingo), Umtali (Mutare), and Gwelo (Gweru). Isolated farmers were developing good interests in African communities and building churches for them. A report from the Sentinel Publishing Company revealed that the percentage of increase in the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference was the greatest in the Southern African Division.42 The conference used £2,000 from the Nyazura Mission farm proceeds to build a church hall and a church school for a European church in Bulawayo.43

In 1951 the conference called for a full-time bilingual literature evangelist.44 They aimed to reach everyone. It is not clear whether by bilingual they were referring to English and Afrikaans, or one of the vernacular languages.

The union sold a portion of the Nyazura Mission farm in 1950 to raise money for building Rhobecon (Anderson) School and a European church hall in Bulawayo. Although this move was a big loss to Nyazura, in 1973 the union sold a house, donated by John Boardman, a conference lay member, and used the proceeds to construct an expatriate house on the mission campus.45

By 1951 conference membership had grown to 214, meeting in five organized churches. The new officers were W. H. Hurlow, president, and Mrs. M. Botes, Secretary-Treasurer.46 They served until 1954, when C. A. Shepherd took over as president.47 He served until 1958, when D. B. Baird took over from him. A. W. Bell was secretary-treasurer. Membership had risen to 317.48 In 1955 Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference was realigned to exclude Bechuanaland (Botswana), resulting in a change of name to Rhodesia Conference. When G. E. Game and K. G. Webster took over as president and secretary-treasurer in 1962 membership stood at 506 in six organized churches.49

In Salisbury the church grew in membership under the leadership of Pastor Ernest Logan, resulting in the extension of the small church building. The additions and renovations included a new front, new ceiling, repainting the interior, a room for mothers with small children, redecorating the Sabbath School room for children, and paving the outside. Throughout its lifetime this church building became a silent witness for the Lord.50

The territory of the Rhodesia Conference was realigned again in 1965, focusing on European and indigenous work in just two countries: Zambia with two organized churches, Lusaka Central Church and Matero, also in Lusaka;51 and Rhodesia with five, namely: Jameson Street in Bulawayo, Gweru Central, Salisbury (Harare) City Church (now Highlands), Kingsway in Mutare and Fort Victoria (now Masvingo).52 The target population was 326,400 Europeans in the two countries, where baptized members totaled 574 in seven organized churches. The office address continued at Third Street, Gwelo, Rhodesia. The new officers were A.W. Austen, president, and C. K. Willmore, secretary-treasurer. It also had a full complement of departmental directors and five credentialed literature evangelists.53 J. D. Harcombe took over the presidency in 1967.54

Establishment of the Zambesi General Field

Tensions within the Rhodesia Conference led to the organization of a specifically non-European administrative territory. In 1965 Zambesi Conference refused to allow native children to attend Anderson Seventh-day Adventist School, because Europeans did not want relationships between their children and non-whites. The Zambesi Union then asked Pastor W. C. S. Raitt to establish a hostel in Trenance, Bulawayo, to accommodate children of other ethnicities. Arrangements were made for children from the hostel to attend school at Founders High School where Gas Solomon, an Adventist, was the principal.55

In 1969 the Zambesi Union voted to organize the Zambesi General Field to serve the African and Indian peoples in Rhodesia. The field, headquartered in Bulawayo, started with a membership of 83, one organized church, and a target population of 23,700. F. G. Thomas served as the first president, M. B. Musgrave the secretary-treasurer, alongside one literature evangelist, and one ordained minister, W. C. Raitt.56

In Mutare, B. Hall was the founding member of Florida SDA Church, established in 1965 for people of African descent. Before that he and his family were members of Sakubva Church, a Black African congregation under the Mashonaland Field. (Later, one of Hall’s sons, Robert, became a pastor; in 1987 he was appointed the first indigenous president of Zambesi Conference). A little later the following churches became part of the Zambezi General Field: in Bulawayo - Barham-Green and Trenance, in Salisbury (Harare) - Arcadia, in Gwelo - (Gweru) Church, Umtali (Mutare)-Florida, and in Shabani (Zvishavane).57

After its organization the Zambezi General Field made a standing arrangement with the Rhodesia Conference to use the Anderson School camping facilities for its camp meetings and to use Norseland Youth Camp facilities, near Mutare, for its youth camps. By the end of 1974 membership had grown to 159, worshipping in 5 churches under one ordained and two licensed pastors. Elder H. C. Currie who took over as the union president in 1972 also assumed the presidency of the Zambesi General Field.58 In 1976 the field had 496 members, six churches, and five ordained pastors. It continued to operate from Bulawayo.

The Rhodesia Conference remained with a membership of 458, five organized churches, five ordained ministers, and one licensed pastor among a target population of 321,900. J. D. Harcombe continued as president and C. K. Willmore served as secretary-treasurer. The headquarters continued to be in Gwelo.59 The conference used $10,000 from the sale of its old office, plus an appropriation of $5,000 from the division, to build a new office.60 At that time the Europeans from Northern Rhodesia were no longer part of the Rhodesia Conference because their union started a ministry for them.

In 1973 the Zambesi Union Year-end Committee voted to explore the consolidation of the Rhodesia Conference with the Zambesi General Field by February 1974.61 The Union Committee voted in May 1977 to hold a combined meeting of the Rhodesia Conference and the Zambesi General Field to carefully study the possible merger of the two organizations.62 On September 12, 1977, the Zambesi General Field and the Rhodesia Conference merged at a session held in Gwelo. Officers and departmental directors were elected from the main ethnic groups.

The conference voted that evangelistic endeavors would be for all ethnicities. Members from the different ethnic groups were free to join congregations of their choice and the assets of both entities were assumed by the newly formed conference. At that session it was resolved to ensure that local congregations were assigned pastors of their ethnic group. The new entity chose the name Zambesi Conference, with headquarters in Gwelo.63

The territory of the merged conference was Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). J. G. Evert was elected president from 1979-1980, and J. Human the executive secretary. In 1981 I. C. Blake took over as president, with J. Human the secretary-treasurer, until 1983 when he was replaced by F. C. Hayter. Membership was 823 in 14 churches.64 Membership reached a record 1,043 in 1984 when J. Human was president and F. C. Hayter secretary-treasurer.65

One of the most imposing church buildings in Harare is Highlands Church along Enterprise Road (Mtoko Road today). It was built with the proceeds from the sale of the conference’s first church building along Second Street in Harare.66 This move was taken to accommodate the growing congregation, which at that time was 100 percent European.

Robert Hall and Norman Joel were the first indigenous president and secretary-treasurer to lead the Zambesi Conference, from 1987-1991. During their term of office, conference membership grew from 1,196 to 1,852, in 17 churches.67

The above officers were replaced by A. Ahomed, president, and E. Mlotshwa, secretary-treasurer.68 Mrs. L. Goosen became secretary-treasurer in 1993, when the Zambesi Conference, under the leadership of Ahomed, broke away from the Adventist Church. The conference broke away with 16 organized churches and 2,085 church members, many of whom returned to the main Seventh-day Adventist Church organization within a few years.69

Meanwhile, there had been a longstanding concern for the church in Zimbabwe to unite, especially after the country gained its independence in 1980. The Zambesi Union set up a sub-committee June 21, 1991, to study the merging of the Zambesi Conference, which served members of different ethnic backgrounds, with the three existing fields which served the Black African people. After considering the subcommittee’s recommendations the union voted to request the Zambesi Conference begin restructuring.70 The move was intended to help the General Conference unite the Adventist church in South Africa and integrate it with the Eastern Africa Division territory by 1992, in harmony with a new political and social climate in that country. Unfortunately, the Zambesi Conference declined to move in that direction.71

The Zambesi Conference was originally organized based on the separation of races. To address the anomaly and embarrassment that the Adventist church caused to the prevailing climate of Southern Africa, the General Conference, the Eastern Africa Division, and the Zambesi Union Mission voted to discontinue the Zambesi Conference. The Zambesi Conference was instructed to hand over all its organized churches to the existing fields, effective the session of June 21, 1992.72

Unfortunately, the Zambesi Conference under the leadership of Abdullah Ahomed did not comply. Instead, it informed the union through its lawyers that it had disassociated itself from the Adventist Church organization. The union responded by voting to record that the Zambesi Conference no longer existed. Further, the union instructed all the churches that were formerly under the Zambesi Conference (Harare: Highlands and Arcadia; Bulawayo: Bulawayo City, Barham Green, Thorngrove and Trenance; Masvingo Central; Mutare: Kingsway and Florida; Zvishavane; Gweru: Gweru Central, Northlea and Anderson School Churches) to join the churches in the newly realigned East, Central, and West Zimbabwe Conferences.

On December 22, 1992, the Zambesi Union received a letter from Ahomed’s lawyers, declaring that the Zambesi Conference had disassociated itself from the organized Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ahomed’s credentials were withdrawn and his ordination annulled. Thirteen conference churches refused to join the three regular local conference organizations of the Zimbabwe Union Conference.73

Pastors of the former Zambesi Conference were given one month to inform the union in writing whether they wanted to go with the breakaway conference or remain as employees of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Students who were sponsored to study at Solusi University by the former Zambesi Conference continued under union sponsorship, provided they signed a contract expressing their desire to work for the regular conferences. Lastly, the Zambesi Union was to distribute all fixed properties occupied by the former Zambesi Conference to the regular local conferences.74

When the Zambesi Conference broke away from the Zambesi Union Mission, the majority of Adventist members of color aligned themselves with Pastor Ahomed, the president of that conference. Although many came back individually, one prominent businessman remained faithful to Ahomed and supported him financially. However, before the businessman died, he told his children that he wanted the Zambesi Union president, R. R. Ndhlovu, to preside at his funeral. Unaware of that instruction, Ahomed went to the businessman’s funeral, prepared to preach, but the man’s children could not allow him. Instead, R. R. Ndhlovu, who officiated the marriage for the deceased businessman many years before, preached the funeral message.75

Several pastors who worked for the former Zambesi Conference had their credentials withdrawn because they failed to meet the March deadline to decide whether they wanted to be part of the main Adventist Church. The Zambesi Union resolved to work with the regular local conferences to develop and implement aggressive remedial measures to reclaim those churches that had joined the breakaway Zambesi Conference.76 Two years later, the union decided to maintain in its books the names of the former Zambesi Conference members in hope of winning them back.77

In 1997 the Zambesi Union invited the former Zambesi Conference for dialogue, alongside a position statement which in part stated:

That the Zambesi Union Mission was committed to nurturing and ministering to all racial groups in Zimbabwe through an effective multicultural ministry within the three conferences.

That the Zambesi Union Mission would maintain the East, West, and Central Zimbabwe Conferences that were organized in 1992.

That the Zambesi Union Mission upholds the General Conference policy whereby all properties are registered, and their titles are held in the name of the relevant association.78

Early in 1998 the Zambesi Union Conference Executive Committee voted to set up the following sub-committee to dialogue with the former Zambesi Conference: S. Ndhlovu, S. Masvosve, L. Masuku, E. Franch, M. Choga, all conference presidents, and Zimbabwe Union Conference officers.79 The sub-committee met with the delegation of the former Zambesi Conference on January 25, 1998. Unfortunately, the former conference members rejected the union proposal outright. Instead, it came up with a counterproposal which the union did not accept because it was not in harmony with the denominational policies.80

The Zambesi Union wrote a final letter of appeal to all members of the former Zambesi Conference, giving them until March 31, 2000, to decide to come back to the main church, after which all their names would be removed from membership.81 Although the leadership of the conference ignored the invitation from the union, a good number of the members from different ethnic groups and pastors came back as individuals. Their membership was integrated into the three conferences under the Zimbabwe Union Conference. Unfortunately, there is no record of the actual numbers that came back.

List of Presidents

E. C. Boger (1929-1938); G. R. Nash (1938-1941); R. M. Mote (1941-1942); A. E. Rawson (1942-1944); W. D. Eva (1945-1946); E. J. Stevenson (1947-1950); W. H. Hurlow (1951-1953); C. A. Shepherd (1954-1957); D. B. Baird (1958-1961); G. E. Garne (1962-1963); A. W. Austen (1965-1967); J. D. Harcombe (1967-1970); J. B. Cooks (1971-1975); D. H. Thomas (1976-1978); J. G. Evert (1979-1980); I. C. Blake (1981-1983); J. Human (1984-1986); R. Hall (1987-1991); A. Ahomed (1992-1993).


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Vixie, L. A. “First Camp-meeting in Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference.” The Southern African Division, May 1, 1942.

Webster, D. A. “Zambesi Union Mission: News Notes.” The Southern African Division, June 1, 1931.

Zambesi Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Minutes of the Executive Committee Meetings, various dates.


  1. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (1996), s.v. “Rhodesia.”

  2. A. Abdullah, telephone interview by author, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, July 17, 2020.

  3. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. “Rhodesia.” Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996, 1216-1217.

  4. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1930), “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference (European),” 116.

  5. E. C. Boger, “News Notes,” African Division Outlook, February 13, 1930, 7.

  6. E. C. Boger, “Report of the Zambesi Union Mission,” African Division Outlook, July 1, 1931, 16-18.

  7. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1931), “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference (European),” 118.

  8. Ibid. Accessed January 21, 2020.

  9. D. A. Webster, “Zambesi Union Mission: News Notes,” Southern African Division Outlook, August 15, 1934, 4.

  10. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1935), “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference (European),” 190.

  11. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1938), “Rhodesia Conference,” 199.

  12. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1946), “Rhodesia Conference,” 180-181.

  13. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (1996), s.v. “Rhodesia.”

  14. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1945), “Rhodesia Conference,” 173.

  15. O. U. Giddings, “The Salisbury Effort,” The African Division Outlook, April 14, 1930, 8.

  16. “African Division Annual Statistical Report 1929,” African Division Outlook, May 12, 1930, 6.

  17. “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference News Notes,” African Division Outlook, May 26, 1930, 7.

  18. C. Robinson, “Evangelistic Work in the Mission Field,” African Division Outlook, May 9, 1929, 2.

  19. A. Ingle, “Zambesi Union Mission: Work in Salisbury is Growing,” African Division Outlook, June 16, 1930, 4-5.

  20. D. A. Webster, “Zambesi Union Mission: News Notes,” African Division Outlook, June 1, 1931, 8.

  21. O. U. Giddings, “Zambesi Union, News Notes,” African Division Outlook, February 27, 1930, 9.

  22. D. P. Hander, “Zambesi Union Mission Constituency Meeting,” Southern African Division Outlook, September 1, 1931, 7.

  23. C. E. Trevithick, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference: Salisbury Dorcas Society,” The Southern African Division Outlook, March 15, 1941, 4.

  24. G. R. Nash, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference: Camp Meeting,” Southern African Division Outlook, March 15, 1942, 4.

  25. L. A. Vixie, “First Camp-meeting in Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference,” Southern African Division Outlook, May 1, 1942, 1.

  26. A. E. Rawson, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference,” Southern African Division Outlook, August 1, 1943, 2.

  27. W. R. Vail, “Zambesi Union: Baptisms, Bulawayo,” Southern African Division Outlook, March 1, 1946, 2.

  28. R. E. Eva, “Third Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference Camp-meeting,” Southern African Division Outlook, June 26, 1944, 4.

  29. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1948), “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference,” 176.

  30. M.L. Sanford, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference: “Xmas Gift,” Southern African Division Outlook, March 15, 1948, 1.

  31. E. A. Trumper, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference: Conference Camp-meeting,” Southern African Division Outlook, June 15, 1948, 3.

  32. E. J. Stephenson, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland. Conference: Fort Victoria Church,” Southern African Division Outlook, February 15, 1949, 3.

  33. Zambesi Union Executive Committee Meeting, January 16, 1949, (no page given, action 307-309/49), Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division Archives.

  34. E. J. Stephenson, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference: Rhobecon Preparatory School,” Southern African Division Outlook, September 1, 1950, 3.

  35. Zambesi Union Executive Committee meeting, April 11, 1950, (no page given, action 522/50), Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division Archives. Accessed April 19, 2020.

  36. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, January 15, 1950, (page not given, action 308/49).

  37. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, August 3, 1950, 37.

  38. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, December 25, 1950, 70-71.

  39. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, May 3, 1951, 37.

  40. C. A. Shepherd, “The Rewards of Faith,” Southern African Division Outlook, April 15, 1957, 5.

  41. W. H. Hurlow, “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference: Camp and Constituency Meeting,” Southern African Division Outlook, March 15, 1951, 3.

  42. W. H. Hurlow, “Report of the Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference,” Southern African-Division Outlook, August 1, 1951, 6.

  43. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, May 6, 1952, 48.

  44. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, February 14, 1951, 3.

  45. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, August 9, 1973, 50.

  46. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1951), “Rhodesia-Bechuanaland Conference,” 196.

  47. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1954), “Rhodesia Conference,” 195.

  48. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1958), “Rhodesia Conference,” 173.

  49. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1962), “Rhodesia Conference,” 195.

  50. Ethel M. Ainslie, “The Salisbury Church Remodeled,” Southern African Division Outlook, October 15, 1958, 4.

  51. H. Akombwa, telephone interview by the author, Lusaka, Zambia, July 17, 2020.

  52. Personal knowledge of the author, who was president of the Zambesi Union, 1995-2000.

  53. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1965-1966), “Rhodesia Conference,” 267.

  54. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1967), “Rhodesia Conference,” 269.

  55. Robert Hall, telephone interview by author, Pretoria, South Africa, May 5, 2020.

  56. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1970), “Zambesi General Field,” 287.

  57. Robert Hall, telephone interview by author, Pretoria, South Africa, May 5, 2020.

  58. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1972), “Zambesi General Field,” 271.

  59. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1970), “Rhodesia Conference,” 287.

  60. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, August 23, 1974, 478.

  61. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, December 31, 1973, 394.

  62. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, May 17, 1977, 180.

  63. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, September 20, 1977, 216.

  64. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1979-1981), “Zambesi Conference,” 316-318.

  65. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1984), “Zambesi Conference.”

  66. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, August 9, 1973, 50.

  67. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1987), “Zambesi Conference.”

  68. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1992), “Zambesi Conference.”

  69. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1993), “Zambesi Conference.”

  70. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, June 21, 1991, 22.

  71. Ibid.

  72. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, May 13, 1992, 120-121.

  73. The following churches broke away with Pastor Ahomed: Kingsway, Florida, Arcadia, Thorngrove, Bulawayo Central, Gweru Central, Northlea, Lundi Park, Noelvale, Eastlea, Marondera, and Kwe Kwe.

  74. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, January 25, 1993, 179-181.

  75. R.R. Ndhlovu, an Experience that he shared with the author in 1995, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

  76. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, May 17, 1993, 199.

  77. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, November 27, 1995, 18.

  78. Zimbabwe Union Mission Executive Committee, June 4, 1997, 153.

  79. Zimbabwe Union Conference Executive Committee, January 12, 1998, 24.

  80. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, January 29, 1998, 35.

  81. Zambesi Union Mission Executive Committee Meeting, December 1, 1999, 167.


Machamire, Paminus. "Zambesi Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 11, 2022. Accessed February 02, 2023.

Machamire, Paminus. "Zambesi Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 11, 2022. Date of access February 02, 2023,

Machamire, Paminus (2022, January 11). Zambesi Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 02, 2023,