HARARE — In Zimbabwe, a battle for supremacy is raging among the charismatic and fairly young modern day prophets who have sent shockwaves within the religious circles in this predominantly Christian Southern African country.
These prophets include Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International Church, Walter Magaya of Prophetic and Healing Deliverance church and Eubert Angel of Spirit Embassy church.
These prophets perform some breathtaking miracles. The list also includes Passion Java of Kingdom Embassy, Tavonga Vutabwashe of Heartfelt International Ministries and Adventure Mutepfa of Revival Centre World Ministry.
The questions that lingers in the minds of most Christians revolve on why most of these local prophets have spiritual fathers from West African nations like Ghana and Nigeria. People interviewed by this paper want to understand the background and scope of this phenomenon.
Emmanuel Makandiwa argues that the “spiritual father” concept in Christianity has been practised ever since the Biblical era right through to the black evangelists from the Zionist and Apostolic sects in Zimbabwe.
“In the Old Testament, Elijah was Elisha’s spiritual father. In the New Testament, Apostle Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father. The spiritual fathers served the purpose of instructing their subordinates on prayer, interpretation of prophecy and good conduct among other things,” Makandiwa said.
The evangelist was a pastor of Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) in Zimbabwe until about 2008 when he started an interdenominational church in Harare.
Within that church was the late Pastor Phanuel Dzangara Chiweshe who played an important role in the spiritual growth of Makandiwa.
Chiweshe also groomed Reverend Oliver Chipunza of Interdenominational School of Deliverance and the late Langton Kupara of AFM.
Chipunza revealed that he was mentored by the late Chiweshe both as a Christian youth and pastor.
“I was a youth leader and he mentored me into what I am today. He used to come for crusades in Highfield with Reverend Power Mutsvene and we used to emulate him,” Chipunza said.
Pastor Ezekiel Guti of Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA) is also regarded by many local pastors as a spiritual mentor and father. He mentored Pastor Majoro, the founder of Faith World Ministries who also happens to be a successful television evangelist and spiritual leader.
On the other hand, Bishop Mike Muwani of Bible Believing Church also regards Guti as his spiritual father. However, Angel and Makandiwa have now turned to a Ghanaian prophet, Victor Kusi Boateng as their spiritual father. Magaya of PHD Ministries claims Temitope Balogun Joshua is his spiritual father.
All these prophets perform breathtaking miracles and they openly declare that they were groomed by these West African pastors whom they look up to as their spiritual fathers.
In a research paper entitled Prophets, Profits and The Bible edited by Ezra Chitando, Masiiwa Ragies Gunda and Joachim Kugler, Obvious Vengeyi in an essay on Zimbabwean Pentecostal prophets critiques miracles performed by these modern day prophets.
“In media terminology, stories about their exploits could be regarded as the most trending. And their popularity is increasing by the day.
Generating much interest is their claim to perform ‘extra-ordinary’ miracles such as filling pockets, wallets and hands of believers with bank notes and gold nuggets.
“After prayer, followers open their eyes only to find their pockets and wallets full of money and gold nuggets in their palms. These prophets claim to heal any kind of sickness such as cancer, HIV, Aids and even raise the dead. In full view of their congregations, some have caused people to instantly stop smoking, instantly lose weight up to 30kgs, and instantly grow full teeth that had long fallen,” Vengeyi writes.
He added that the prophets usually confound their congregations by telling them their house numbers, cellphone numbers, Identity Numbers (IDs), car registration numbers and the colours of undergarments their followers would be wearing.
“Of what use or benefit is the prophecy on such trivial matters? How does one’s undergarment help in changing his or her life predicaments?
Obviously people are fooled by these prophets because they lack understanding of Christianity and the word of God. These modern day preachers are mere money spinners,” fumed Bishop Mike Muwani, leader and founder of Bible Believing Church.
Other “extraordinary” miracles performed by these prophets include children being born only after three days or just hours of conception and increasing fuel in cars instead of it getting used up as one drives. They also specialise in making accurate predictions of events.
Vengeyi said these miracles follow closely those performed by West African Pentecostal prophets such as T.B. Joshua of Synagogue Church of All Nations, Pastor Chris Ayakhilome of Christ Embassy (both of Nigeria) and Victor Kusi Boateng of Ghana who is Makandiwa’s spiritual mentor, Godfather.
He said the miracles and the doctrine of prosperity, which is the anchor of their preaching are not entirely unknown in Zimbabwe and in Africa at large.
“They have been heard of; even in the history of Christianity such events and teachings are not new. In fact, in the Bible, working miracles seems to be one of the preoccupations of Israelite prophets, especially pre-classical ones . . . Jesus in the New Testament is also depicted as one who performed similar miracles.
“Zimbabwean prophets have therefore sought to closely follow these great Old Testament prophetic figures and Jesus. Their interest is to re-live, to re-enact the biblical times. In other words, they seek to dramatise what they read in the Bible.”
As background, Vengeyi says Zimbabwe has always been inundated with stories of miracle workers, who perform miracles similar to the ones these great men of God performed, from time to time.
He said prophets in African Initiated Churches and traditional healers are known to perform such miracles.
Followers of Prophet E.H. Guti and wife prophetess Eunor of Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa Forward in Faith (ZAOGA-FIF), Andrew Wutawunashe and wife, prophetess Ruth of Family of God Church (FOG) and Matthias and Mildred of Matthias and Mildred Church have also claimed that their leaders perform such miracles.
He said the popularity of such individuals never reached that of Makandiwa, Vutabwashe and Angel, who attract around 45 000 followers every Sunday service. “This has never happened in the history of Christianity in Zimbabwe. People flock from as far as Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Mozambique to be ‘ministered’ to by these prophets.”