Bulawayo residents conducted a four-hour prayer session, starting at an open space used by the Seventh-Day Adventist church (SDA) to cleanse the Cowdray Park suburb of suspected satanism.

Last September, a 16-year-old girl stunned residents by confessing that she was part of a 60 member satanic cult that has killed 38 people in the suburb, eaten their flesh and drunk their blood.

The issue divided residents after the girl alleged that some SDA members were leaders of the cult that also has schoolchildren. At an explosive residents’ meeting, which was well attended at Mahlathini Primary School in October, there were several dramatic moments, when residents who did not believe the story.

Councillor Collet Ndlovu, under whose jurisdiction Cowdray Park falls, told residents that churches in the area had met and decided to start prayers at an open space used by the SDA church.

Hands immediately shot up as residents jostled for a chance to speak. “I think we should invite church leaders from outside the suburb. We cannot have local church leaders, as we have heard that some of them are members of the cult. It would defeat the whole purpose,” said a resident.

A number of residents were concerned about the venue saying it was the satanists’ stronghold. “Why should we use the SDA stand when we already know that they are involved. We should get a neutral venue,” another resident said.

Clr Ndlovu said residents should not judge the church simply because one of its members was fingered. “This thing of people saying the SDA is a church of satanists should stop. We have no proof. The girl named a member. But that does not mean that the whole church is involved. If a child steals, does it make the parents thieves as well?”

 “The girl did speak and she named some people that we know are dead and she claimed the cult had killed them. However, pointing fingers without proof will not get us anywhere. We must pray together next week,” responded Clr Ndlovu.

A group of residents said they had read the story in the newspaper but doubted it. “I think this prayer meeting is aimed at the SDA. People already believe the church is at fault. I still think the story is a lie. Is there a person here who can stand up and say my relative was killed by these satanists?” asked one of the residents.

The crowd was taken aback when Mr Wilias Dube, a member of the Cowdray Park Residents Associations quickly stood up and said his friend was killed.

“The girl told us how my friend was killed when she made her confession. She said the satanists had also sent a team to kill me, but they failed because I pray regularly. She also told us that she had been assigned to kill her mother because her prayers were disrupting the cult’s activities in the suburb,” said Mr Dube.

He further shocked residents by saying satanists used blood from sanitary pads that were dumped in the bush to conduct rituals.

In the end, residents resolved to start praying at the open space used by the SDA and move all over the suburb, including the area near the sign post bus stop, which the girl said was the satanists’ headquarters.

According to a report by The Chronicle, the prayer meeting was conducted despite earlier attempts to block it by one of the residents, Mr Martin Dube, the chairperson of Basic Commodities Association, who claimed to own Stand Number 1975, Cowdray Park where the prayer meeting was held.

Mr Dube had threatened legal action through his lawyer, Mr Sindiso Mazibisa, saying all those who agreed to hold the prayer meeting at the venue would be trespassing.

Clr Ndlovu said after the prayer, “We have engaged members of ZINATHA [Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association] and would like them to work with churches to cleanse the suburb. I am happy that people are now calm and also confident that something is being done to address the problem.”

The leader of the churches who participated in the prayer meeting, Pastor Ndabezinhle Thebe from Great Joy Christian Fellowship Church also said the prayer meeting progressed well, “We had invited 20 churches and residents. We also prayed for rain and asked God to help us remove the spirit of darkness in the suburb.”

He added, “Our intention as churches is not only to cleanse the suburb of satanism but to spread the gospel across Cowdray Park. We urge churches to continue working together. We also need to work together to pray for our leaders.”

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