Zed for the spirit

via Zed for the spirit The Zimbabwean 14 October 2014

I wonder why the church activities that play such a big part in Mbare life today are so different from those of the early days of the township?

The churches that helped to make Mbare a vibrant community are still there. Some still have a good membership; others seem to have faded with age. Either way, they all represent a different kind of religion from that which hits the headlines these days.

The old-established churches, and this includes the Muslim community “cheche chemaChawa” are known as followers of Jesus, or of Muhammad for the Muslims; the churches that meet in stadiums are known as followers of some new prophet.

The old-established churches are known for their contributions to the community; their schools, their women’s organisations, which usually include some contribution to community development in their activities and their youth groups, often including football teams. The only activities of the new churches are noisy mass meetings for “miracle ministry” with much noise, babbling “in tongues” and what sounds to outsiders like hysteria.

Ministers of the older churches can move around visiting their flocks almost unnoticed. The new prophets seem to be always the centre of attention. If they ventured into Mbare, they would come in a car only less expensive than the president’s and possibly accompanied by a motorcade bigger than the president’s.

But this isn’t really so new. St. Paul wrote advice to his converts in Corinth on how to distinguish who really had the spirit of God. There are many gifts of the Spirit, he tells them, and doesn’t deny that prophecy, miracle healing and speaking in tongues are among them, but he emphasises that the greatest is charity; love of God which drives us to do works of love for our neighbours.

If that is not there, if the focus of worship is not on God but on a prophet or miracle worker, he warns that kind of religion has missed its focus. He would probably question whether prophecy and miracles without charity are the real thing at all.

Listen to some of their messages; the poor woman with a baby who stays up all night waiting to hear the prophet Magaya and is encouraged to give her last dollar to the prophet. Did you notice how well organised these prophetic and miracle meetings are for collecting money?

When Makandiwa tells people not to protest however hard life is, isn’t he justifying Karl Marx’s criticism of religion as “opium for the people”? Lenin translated that phrase for Russian workers as “a cheap kind of spiritual vodka”; in our day “Zed for the spirit” probably expresses it best for our people. The prophet’s preaching and miracles are an intoxicating mixture, which like cheap liquor, take people’s minds off their daily problems. They feel happy, carried away on waves of emotion, for a while, but when the effect wears off, the problems are still there and you’ve probably got a hangover.

Curiously, these self-appointed prophets never think of the obvious cause of your problem. What do you think would happen if Makandiwa, instead of urging desperate people not to protest, was to tell our Dear Leader not to shoot demonstrators? If he’s afraid of the drop in his Sunday collection that would cause, he’s not a real prophet, not cut from the same cloth as Jeremiah, Daniel or John the Baptist.

And if he’s afraid of that, what chance is there that we’ll ever hear him telling the guys who are called on to do the dirty work, the rank and file soldiers and police, with their fingers on the trigger or grasping their batons, that attacking unarmed demonstrators is a crime that cries out to heaven for vengeance? Is he afraid of losing favour with the people in power – and losing more than their cash contributions? Or is he afraid that he might succeed? Either way, he’s not much of a prophet.


  • comment-avatar
    Gwanyamwanya We Mahobo 8 years ago

    They are money-mongers disguised as Prophets. I recall Andrew Wutawunashe, college drop-out from both University of Rhodesia and University of Sierra Leonne, who started his Family of God church at the Salisbury(Harare) Airport in 1979.

    He caused a wave in independent Zimbabwe and built an empire of buildings in his name. Now that Family of God project has withered. He is still collecting thousands of US dollars from renting out the church buildings registered in his personal name.

    Gumbura, Makandiwa and Magaya and many other young boys and women watched. Learned. Saw the opportunity. Hence this proliferation of so many prophetic churches in my motherland.

    Oh Lord have mercy on my people. Everyone is taking advantage of Zimbabweans. Until WHEN God???????????????????????????????

  • comment-avatar
    gandanga 8 years ago


  • comment-avatar
    Don Cox 8 years ago

    Religion has always been primarily a money-making activity.

    Read the Old Testament, for instance. Do you think the priests in Jerusalem ever went hungry ?