While members of other Christian denominations can attend church services dressed in their ordinary attire, members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) have special regalia, treated with sacredness.

Briefing RelZim.org recently on the rituals of his Church, a ZCC member in Bulawayo, who preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation by elders, said it was taboo for a woman to touch a man’s church regalia, while a man is also forbidden to tamper with the woman’s church attire. However, he could not be drawn into explaining why, arguing that in their Church they do not question directives, but simply implement them.

For their special dances, which are usually on Saturday, both men and women put on their khaki suits, while for Sunday services they wear green attire.  The church member explained that the church garments are not put in wardrobes but are hanged at convenient places in the house, lest they are mistakenly tampered by wrong hands.

“After sexual intercourse, whether one is married or not, they should first undergo ceremonial cleansing using holy water that is prayed for before touching any church garments,” said the source.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays prior to church service and on other special days, members of ZCC do not engage in sexual intercourse, as that compromises their holiness, further revealed the source.

Asked whether polygamy was acceptable by his Church, the man said it was a highly contentious issue, arguing that some members are for the matter, while others strongly opposed to it. He said there were polygamous pastors and bishops within one of Southern Africa’s oldest indigenous churches.

Zion Christian Church was founded by Bishop Engenas Lekganyane in 1910 in Polokwane, South Africa. However, owing to leadership wrangles the Church split into two formations. Members of the larger faction wear a badge with green and black colours and a star image on their clothes, while the representatives of the smaller group have since replaced the star with a dove image. Notwithstanding this, the doctrines of both formations remain the same.

The ZCC Mbungu Church in Masvingo, though seemingly big in Zimbabwe, is one of the smaller splinter groups under the leadership of Bishop Mutendi. The other splinter group in Bikita is said to be led by Bishop Jorum. However, there are other minor unsung ZCC groupings across the country. Both in Zimbabwe and abroad, there have been efforts, said the RelZim.org source, to bring together different ZCC groupings into one undivided church.

Moriah Shrine, located about 40km from Polokwane, South Africa, is the headquarters of the ZCC, which is active in many Southern African countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

In Zimbabwe, the Pumula East church in Bulawayo, whose building has just been completed, under the leadership of Bishop Luke Thenjwayo Sibanda, is the national head office. The church building, the source said, will be officially open by Bishop Lihanyana in November this year and an influx of people is expected from South Africa, where the majority of the church members are.

Meanwhile, members of the ZCC from Zimbabwe and other Southern African countries were expected to join their counterparts in Moriah Shrine, South Africa on September 2, where they will be celebrating a new year, according to the church’s calendar.

The AIC Church has other key mass-pulling pilgrimages to the sacred place in April during Easter holidays and in December for Christmas celebrations. Moriah, to ZCC members is a holy place that can even be visited at any time in the face of problems with beliefs that they are off-loaded there, explained the source.

The church member, who said he had visited Moriah several times, denied the widespread allegations that every time there is a pilgrimage to the shrine, one member has to be killed and offered as an offering at the holy mountain.  “We are a Christian Church. We believe that Jesus is the Lord and saviour and we read the Bible as it is, while abiding by the strict dietary laws given in the Old Testament.”

The ZCC congregant said it was not difficult for anyone, willing to be part of their Church, to join it. He added that baptisms were fast-tracked, and finished by saying that his Church was blessed with many prophets and prophetesses that warn believers of impending dangers and offer spiritual advice.