IN February last year, I hitchhiked in a muddied and dangerously overloaded old truck enroute to Chipinge South’s Checheche growth point from Chinyamukwakwa.
As the ramshackle vehicle squirmed and slithered along a muddy road, regularly and nonchalantly doing 180 degree turns at high speed, the weary passengers were amused by the truck driver’s seemingly familiar antics.
Among us was a young woman barely out of her teens, who, with fearful excitement and ignoring her present peril, suddenly blurted out the latest news to anyone who cared to listen. Everyone listened with gleeful interest.
“He is the one who was causing it not to rain. Look,” she points out, “now it’s pouring.”
In her unbridled enthusiasm the young woman had saw it fit to share with everyone the story of a man who had been recently exposed by witch hunters, commonly referred to as “Tsikamutanda”, for allegedly engaging is wizardry.
The villagers and the Tsikamutandas alleged that this man̓s wizardly was the reason why it had not rained for weeks in Chipinge, where drought had ravaged both people and livestock.
So in addition to surrendering his witchcraft tool, the “culprit” was made to pay a fine of at least three beasts.
Unbelievable, indeed, but someone in Chipinge was, almost a year ago, fined for a phenomenon that was purely natural and has again returned to devastate the Chipinge community as well as virtually the whole country.
And almost a year to date, from the incident in Chipinge, in a classic exposé of how gullible Zimbabweans are or have become, government through Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, extended a call to religious and traditional leaders to pray for the rains.
Zimbabweans are undoubtedly a religious lot, if not too superstitious a people.
So as government, clueless on how to solve the country’s innumerable problems, made this call with the full knowledge of the power that religion holds over the people. And in doing so, making itself look good by appearing to be spiritual as well. And the rains fell, albeit sparsely
Tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands pack each service of the likes of prophets Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya, so there was no doubt at all that Mphoko’s call would have plenty of takers.
In a country that is confronted by so many problems, leaders who command such large followings have a huge influence on where the nation goes and their annual and repetitive prophecies of good times coming have, however, riled many.
Some have said that the church has caused people to become passive, believing in the prophecies of their leaders.
“It is pertinent for us as a nation to swallow our pride and know that 2016 cannot become a better year simply because it was prophesied in one of the church gatherings,” Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer, Christopher Mugaga, recently said.
Yet others are calling for church leaders to address matters of economic and social justice.
“The role of the church is to provide leadership to the nation and this includes politicians and civil society as well,” the director of Zimbabwe Divine Destiny, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, has noted. He further believes that the church should never be far from any crisis that may arise in a nation.
“The church is the opinion leader of whatever is happening. If there are any emerging issues or crisis, the church should be the first to give a statement on that and it should rally the masses of Zimbabwe around these matters,” said Magaya, adding that church leaders should not shy from critical issues because they have a biblical mandate to fulfill.
“The church has got a specific role, that is of reprimanding the government where they miss it and to declare judgement where there is no repentance.
“A lot of people are afraid. We have prophets whose prophetic role normally focuses on things that are less dangerous,” Magaya said, but would not condemn what some of the prophets and pastors are doing despite him having his reservations about some of them.
“But I also believe that there are some of them who could have had their mouths filled with some stuff that they cannot speak. When a bone is in a dog’s mouth, the dog cannot bark,” Magaya added.
Other church leaders seemed gratified that they have been approached by the powerful and felt their presence had been acknowledged.
“We as the church feel encouraged when leaders call for such days. We would like to work with the presidency,” Shingi Munyeza, a pastor at Harare-based Faith Ministries Church, said.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Walter Mzembi, said while the country needed prayer, good economic policies were an integral part of success.
“Let us not cry and cry because there is no one listening. God is saying that I have already given you the solution.
“Yes let’s pray, but he has told me in my prayers that I gave you the solution long back, as well as the power of creativity.”
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