Takawira Masendeke (25) lived his life under the shadows of the guns and knives of dishonourable criminals as his brother Edgar Masendeke and his partner in crime Stephen Chidhumo.
At 10, while his friends struggled at Sunday schools with understanding the Biblical stories in the books of Genesis and the synoptic gospels, he had become a master of debauchery in the streets of Kwekwe. When he turned 12, he was smoking marijuana and four years later he had become a gun-totting robber.
At 17 when other boys of his age were struggling for “A” Level places, he was among hardcore criminals behind bars. He was to be there for four months after being exposed to vice by Edgar and his close ally Chidhumo, who killed and robbed.
Ever since Edgar met the hangman’s noose on May 31, 2002, amid relief throughout the country, the Masendeke family brothers have been in the news all for the wrong reasons.
Just as the nation dreaded the mere mention of the Masendeke family, an almost unbelievable miracle has happened.
Takawira has swapped his old ways for the wise words of the Bible and is now a student pastor at the Tavonga Vutabwashe-led Heartfelt International Ministries.
“I have done everything bad from robbing people, womanising, drug abuse, fighting people and lots of things. I regret doing that, but I will never regret the day the Man of God (Apostle Tavonga Vutabwashe) was sent to me,” Masendeke recalled. “I started stealing at 10, then at 17 I fell in the hands of police for armed robbery. It was my first time to be in jail. I went for four months in jail and was out after they considered my age. My accomplices spent more than two years behind bars.”
Masendeke painfully conceded there was a spirit in the family that needed to be exorcised.
“I had many fights. They were not just ordinary fights, and I had a spiritual back up of some sort, (mangoromera). I started living my life the way I wanted. I was into prostitution and all sorts of evil. I had a mental disorder at one time and my family gathered it was an avenging spirit,” he said.
“Edgar started misbehaving when he was very young. He was friends with Stephen Chidhumo in Kwekwe and they started engaging in minor crimes.
“I think there is a demonic influence in the family. Every family member can fight. It’s natural,” said Masendeke, who appeared emotional and in deep thought when he explained what he thought was behind the family’s notoriety.
“Police started looking for Edgar and they would come home armed. I was going to school then and with such a brother, I could admire. I grew up in a violent set up and if you grow up like that, you would think violence is the right thing.
“He started teaching me to drink at age 10 and to take mbanje at 12. Then came the days when police were looking for him and he stopped staying at home. Then issues started arising on Masendeke having raped there, Masendeke having robbed someone and him again having shot someone,” he said. “His escapades continued and eventually he was caught, and hanged.”
Masendeke was hanged together with Chidhumo after the duo went on a robbing spree. They were once arrested and staged a dramatic escape from prison, marking the beginning of a spat of robberies and killings.
The younger Masendeke feels God wants to use him and thanks Apostle Vutabwashe, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and Prophet Uebert Angel for what he is now.
In an interview with NewsDay, Masendeke’s phone could not stop ringing after giving away his number on a national radio during a live programme.
“I have received more than 500 calls from people wanting to talk to me. I feel God wants to use me for something and I am ready to be an instrument to show that with God, lives can change,” the soft-spoken Masendeke said.
“I don’t regret being a Masendeke at all.”
But, how did he change his behaviour from being a criminal to a “fisher of men”? “I stayed in Amaveni, Kwekwe, and would go for crusades, but with a different agenda. One day, I attended a crusade where Apostle Vutabwashe was preaching. He preached as if he was targeting me. He spoke as if he knew my life. Touched on the evil I was doing and the spirits,” he said.
Masendeke had mental challenges and was prayed for by Apostle Vutabwashe during the church’s crusade. He is now undertaking a two-year diploma in Theology at Heartfelt Institute of Ministries in Harare under the mentorship of his spiritual father.
The born-again Masendeke spoke glowingly of the men of God, Vutabwashe, Emmanuel Makandiwa and Angel.
“I went back to work (stealing) after that, but when Apostle opened a Bible school, I spoke about it and went to the school. I was homeless, he gave me a home. I
faced rejection, but he took me as his son. He took me from scratch, no clothes, no shoes and he provided until I am where I am today,” Masendeke said.
“This Masendeke you see today is a product of Apostle Vutabwashe. When I went to Heartfelt Institute of Ministries, I continued fighting people. I could steal from people and was out of control, and the man of God was patient with me and he is still patient with me. Prophet Angel and Prophet Makandiwa come to lecture to us at school and they prophesied to me to stop what I was doing because God has something for me,” he said.
“The three Men of God have taught me lots of things about life and it is unbelievable even to my family that I’m now a pastor. I was a really bad guy. I would plot evil while seated and map out a plan to succeed in that evil thought. We would steal and run away for months.
“I now want to teach life. I now want to help people, help orphans. I want to use my life’s experience to preach the word and help those deep-rooted in sin and think there is no more redemption.”