THIS article takes a closer look at the nasty religious war between Vapostori (white­garment sects) and modern­ day prophets known for affluence and profligacy. Is there a real difference between these two groups? Why do the latter ridicule the former?

Writing in his stinging book, Marine Spirits 1, Walter Magaya of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries (PHD) drew fire when he wrote: “In marine spirit controlled churches they refer to one person as many because they will be carrying a legion of demons hence, “madzibaba” and “madzimai”.

These gatherings are not God’s churches but cult sects of the marine kingdom.” A war has been simmering in the last few years, a war that is as ugly as it is futile between white garment sects (Vapostori) and modern ­day prophets who have thrown virtually everything associated with evil to Vapostori, claiming they are workers of iniquity powered by the marine kingdom.

The term ‘Vapostori’ has been traditionally associated with white garment sects but a new breed of ‘apostles’ has been getting vogue in recent years.

Notably, Walter Magaya has led the onslaught against the sects. Not once, but twice, did Walter Magaya, a popular charismatic church leader, launch blistering attacks on the white garment sects branding them as “powered by the underworld”.

Magaya is also known for the cutting rebuke: “If you are a member of the Vapostori (white ­garment sects) it means you are supernaturally empowered to fail”.

This stinging comment off his first effort, Marine Spirits 1, stirred bumblebees and set him on a fierce warpath with the sects.

Accusations and counter accusations flew around, with Magaya being accused of using snake oil and dabbling in the occult in Nigeria.

It is common in most modern prophet ­led churches to denigrate Vapostori and the purported deceit of Vapostori worship.

Even Emmanuel Makandiwa of UFIC, another popular modern day prophet, in one of his sermons, took a dig at the ‘broken English’ in Vapostori language of tongues mimicking, “We don’t worship a God who speaks broken English” On the one extreme, Vapostori have traded back their fair share of blows led by Johannes Ndanga, the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) president.

They have dismissed the writings from Magaya as the “pontification They also approached the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) to get police clearance for permission to raid Magaya and destroy all the artefacts.

The thrust here is not to amplify the skirmishes but to lift the veil on the shocking similarities between these groups despite the nasty public spats.

This, perhaps, gives a glimpse into what exactly precipitates the hatred and acerbic attacks. The distinction between Vapostori and modern prophets is deceptively visible on the surface.

Vapostori are conspicuous with their garment regalia. They are known for the white garment (nguwo chena) which sets them apart.

Except for a few groups, most Vapostori groups spot bold heads and a long beard. Also unmistakable by their rods, Vapostori do not worship inside buildings choosing instead to worship under trees and in the bushes.

They also have diversity but in the main, most Vapostori do not read from the Bible, claiming it is no longer relevant as they claim to hear directly from God through the Holy Spirit.

As a general thing, modern day prophets preach affluence and they live Hollywood lifestyles urging multitudes of their followers to do the same.

Some own private jets and in some instances own universities. They deride poverty and associate it with curses. Talking of dressing, these men and women wear designer suits, shirts and expensive shoes.

Their message can be summed up in one word: riches. The modern day apostles are almost worshipped as they have followers kneeling before them when they walk.

In brief, one group is modern and characterized by affluence while the other is traditional in worship, choosing to be conservative.

However, at closer scrutiny one would be shocked to realize that while modern prophets may want to ridicule Vapostori, they seem to match, pound for pound, in terms of practice, please read on.

Use of water in healing: In both groups, there is a famed concept which only differs in name but is basically the same for all intents and purposes: the use of water in healing.

Vapostori call it mvura yemuteuro and this has been part of their customary practices for decades. Principally, mvura yemuteuro is water that has been prayed for which is used for healing purposes.

On the one hand, modern day apostles and prophets have popularized what they term ‘anointing water’ packaged in neatly labeled bottles usually with the face of the ‘prophet.’ Again, this is simply water that has been prayed for.

While Vapostori do not sell theirs, it is common practice to see anointing water being sold along with other religious paraphernalia in these contemporary churches.

The modus operandi of sprinkling water is the same in practice. So, plainly speaking; mvura yemuteuro and ‘anointing water’ are sides of the same coin.

Bracelets/wrist bands: Modern prophets, again, have brought in thinly dressed idolatry in the form of wrist bands with inscriptions of their names and images.

These wrist bands are deemed to ‘protect’ people from trouble as in accidents, for instance.

In testifying, one congregant at UFI said, “We got involved in a fatal crush just outside Bulawayo and there were many casualties. I attribute my survival to the bracelet that had the prophet’s name on it.”

The colourful bracelets are supposedly for ‘protection.’ Coming to Vapostori, the traditional sects have what they term ndaza which is basically a string tied on the wrist or ankle, the main objective of which is to ‘protect’ the one wearing it.

It would probably be one reason why some Vapostori allege the modern prophets have ‘stolen’ and corrupted their version of worship.

Anointing oil: This has been the most mouth­ watering discovery in contemporary churches. Anointing oil, termed mafuta ekuyereswa by Vapostori is also used for healing. In modern churches, the oil is believed to bring about fortune and luck which are the very things they have been traditionally used for in the Vapostori groups.

As people go for interviews they are often ‘anointed’ with this oil which is simply the same as mafuta akaereswa.

Near­ human worship: This practice has been normalised in modern prophet churches where congregants even kneel before their ‘prophets’ and are even sometimes told to call out the name ,not of God, but of the prophet in times of trouble.

It would however be inaccurate to state that Vapostori engage in human worship but their emphasis on the prowess of muporofita comes close to the concept where humans seem to get more exaltation than God, a privilege often used to abuse women.

Cult­ like personality: While Vapostori simply use the vernacular to refer to a prophet (muporofita) and apostle (mupositori).

These people become the symbol of worship hence their images are splashed on cars and homes against Biblical instruction denouncing all form of human exaltation.

Ndiri mwana wemuporofita (I am a prophet’s child), is one sticker that I personally find blasphemous. How can a human being own another being?

This list of similarities is by no means exhaustive and may require a second piece further elaborating but shows an apparent reason probably for the war and the confusion in people who simply fall in love with English terms while doing the very things they criticise.