Edison Kahari (not his real name), an accounting graduate from the University of Zimbabwe, is battling to get a job. He has been in search of it for already two years after graduating.
Kahari is adamant that he cannot have any other job outside his area of specialization. Many graduate students are trapped in Kahari’s situation, as unemployment rate continues to grow in Zimbabwe.
The official figures suggest that formal employment in this economy is in the region of 700,000 people, about half of what it was in 1998. About half of positions were lost in commercial agriculture as a direct consequence of land resettlement.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Zimbabwe’s formally employed stood at 3,6 million in 2003, with unemployment reportedly hovering around 90%. Top economist John Robertson said, “At least 300,000 school-leavers a year, more than 3,5 million young people have come onto the labour market and…nearly that number has yet to find a job in Zimbabwe.” According to Robertson, the land reform programme that was introduced by the government in 2000 accelerated unemployment rate
Desperate to get a job and enjoy the fruits of his sweat, Kahari joined Johanne Masowe yeChishanu hoping his fortunes will change.
Every Thursday, Kahari attends services near Mukuvisi River in Waterfalls (Harare). The church, led by prophet Bengesu (not his real name) attracts members from as far as Gweru, Mutare, and Gokwe.
In the same area, three to four Apostolic churches can be seen and each one has an average of 100 members. Prophet Bengesu boasts that his power changes lives of his church members. He always makes reference to some of the people he helped who are now driving posh cars in the city.
Kahari was persuaded by a testimony from one of his working friends who had gone through the hands of Bengesu. The friend said the prophet had rescued him from the jaws of poverty through his mighty powers. Kahari’s friend narrated how Bengesu had helped him get a job at a top bank in town.
Finding himself between the responsibility for his family and societal pressures, Kahari had no option but to try his luck with the much-revered prophet.
On his first date with the prophet, Bengesu told Kahari that the reason why the latter came was finding a job. This surprised Kahari. The prophet appeared to have the power to see people’s problems without being told what they are in advance. “I was surprised after he prophesied and told me my problems,” he said. Kahari added he was assured that in two weeks something fruitful will have turned up for him.
Kahari was told that his whole family needs cleaning as the spirit was inherited from his great-grand parents. Kahari successfully convinced his family members to join him at his newly founded church.
This is what typically happens resulting in the growth of the Apostolic sects. Many people in need of economic help are abandoning their traditional churches in favour of the apostolic ones.
Union for Development of Apostolic Church in Zimbabwe, Africa (UDACIZA) Project Officer, Cornelius Machingura said many people in towns now preferred the Apostolics as they prove to have the power to solve social problems.
A bishop at an Apostolic church in Mt Pleasant confessed that quite a number of people were turning to their sect as a way of solving social problems. “I have saved a lot of marriages from collapse and assisted young people to secure jobs in town,” said Madzibaba Munemo.
Other social problems that Munemo says he can solve include infertility, HIV/AIDS and recovery of stolen property as well as assuring business success. “I can see people’s problems and have the power to solve them amicably,” he added. This he said is encouraging people to join his sect as the country is plagued with problems emanating from the political and economic challenges that rocked Zimbabwe since 1999.
The Apostolic sects have also become a home to politicians seeking political fortunes. Politicians from across the political divide frequent the sects with some visiting prophets during the night.
Business people in and around the capital are also finding comfort in the Apostolic sects as they seek business fortunes. This fact was confirmed by a Mount Pleasant Heights resident Arnold Gwasha who said that was the reason why people see luxury cars parked under gum trees at churches in suburbs.
“We normally receive politicians and business people at night who come for blessings and we are proud that at least we have been recognized as a force to reckon with in the country,” noted one Prophet Masongela.
The fragmentation of the Apostolics in the country has also resulted in a battle for support among politicians. President Robert Mugabe, Vice President Joyce Mujuru and other top government officials including Webster Shamu, Nicholas Goche and Chris Mushowe have visited different Apostolic churches across the country as they sought to endear themselves with those communities.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was spotted at a Vapostori VeAfrica congregation and is alleged to have had some private talks with the leader of the church Paul Mwazha in South Africa.
Vapostori is not the only religious community to receive a fresh inflow of converts. Pentecostal churches have also witnessed a boom in membership due to Zimbabwe’s unending problems, with church founders fattening their pockets and enjoying luxurious lifestyles through offerings and collections from desperate members.