Respected African traditionalist and academic Professor Gordon Chavhunduka has described the current crop of prophets and traditional healers, who have been performing ‘miracles’ with some reaching stardom, as fake and riding on the economic meltdown of the age.
In an interview with RelZim.org, Chavhunduka said, “People turn to religion when they are faced with problems and this is the case in Zimbabwe. People are not happy with their situations financially and because of stress they turn to prophets and n’angas.” Some people, embarrassed to visit traditional doctors during the day have gone wrapped in the dark to consult the fortune tellers.
Over the past few weeks, prophets have grabbed the headlines. Emmanuel Makandiwa and Amai Praise are some of the top crowd-pullers currently performing miracles and transforming lives in Zimbabwe. In the dirty streets of Mbare with a pong from rivulets of sewages, Amai Praise is said to have worked miracles. Makandiwa has also done his share of wonders and at one point filled the 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium, a feat no other individual has done before.
Even though the multitudes have no doubts, Prof. Chavhunduka does not trust them. He thinks that people are being told what they want to hear. “I do not trust them, they are not genuine, but people because of different problems that they will be facing are so eager to trust them.”
The true embodiment of the new breed is Makandiwa, a tall lithe figure, who has in a space of nine years transformed himself into one of the top prophets in Zimbabwe. As for Mai Praise, vendors at Mbare say she is a vagabond. But then Zimbabweans do not care that she does not have a home. There are claims that the sick are healed, the blind see and the deaf are made to talk.
There are some who even claim to have been cured of HIV, something that Prof. Chavhunduka said is impossible and that these prophets are riding on people’s ill fortune. “If people’s lives improve economically, then we are likely to see an end of these prophets, this will be triggered by an improvement of the economy,” said Prof. Chavhunduka.
He added that people should not follow everyone but first question the authenticity of prophets. “People should first ask those who know more on matters to do with religion and then get confirmation of whether these people are true. Indeed for ordinary men and women it is difficult to ascertain whether these people are true or fake.”
Zimbabweans retain vivid memories of disgraced prophets such as Madzibaba Godfrey Nzira who was arrested and convicted for the rape of trusting women. Lawrence Katsiru from Marondera was arrested after he had been accused of raping a teenager. Both Nzira and Katsiru were famed prophets who in their heyday are said to have performed miracles. People trusted them. Politicians romanced with them and established unions to get unwavering supporters.
In order to weed out the impostors, Prof. Chavhunduka suggests that a test should be carried out to ascertain whether they are genuine. “Some have spirits while others have trained to be prophets. Those in the church claim that they have religious anointing but the truth can only be established by experts.”
A member of Makandiwa’s church, Andrew Mashoko, said that Prof. Chavhunduka should visit Makandiwa when he returns and get to see that indeed the young man from Muzarabani is anointed. “We cannot argue about some matters. People should come and just witness the works of Makandiwa for themselves including the professor,” said Mr. Mashoko.