Zvapupu ZvaJesu above stereotypes

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1947

THE dirt road stems from the Methodist Church-run Kwenda Mission, slithers up and down, bursting into short straight stretches that suddenly give up to hairpin curves.

BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA

Along the road verges, small mountains and inselbergs expose granite rocks painted grey by fungal lichens at the same time showing stretch marks of running water from the previous season.

It is this spectacular grey that makes the eye feel awkward where the sky kisses the mountain under the veil of the ever rising dust from the horizon as young boys gather their cattle from the plains.

Despite this scenery, a humming sound strikes the ears from a very low ground.

There are no music competitions within the vicinity, but the road leads to a shrine where an apostolic sect Zvapupu ZvaJesu is holding its Easter celebrations in Mahusvu village.

The village in Chikomba Central recently reverberated into life as the members of the sect converged for a three-day camp meeting.

However, it was not the size of the crowd that was attractive, but the smartness and orderliness that was shown by the sect as they conducted their services in a rural set up.

Despite most apostolic sects’ shrines being tagged as unhygienic, the Zvapupu ZvaJesu shrine defies all odds.

NewsDay recently visited the shrine and observed massive cleanliness and upholding of human rights at the shrine.

The Apostolic Churches Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ), a body that governs both apostolic and Zion churches, is currently on a campaign to mobilise its members and sect leaders to uphold human rights.

Last year, Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani’s church was banned for human rights abuses with two of its members jailed for not sending their children to school.

At Zvapupu ZvaJesu’s holy ground in Mahusvu, one cannot believe that it is an apostolic sect as their style of worship is unique.

The sect has constructed three blocks of toilets at the far end of the shrine.

This has ensured hygiene at the shrine with most sects using the bush as ablution facilities.

“We constructed the toilets as a way of avoiding environmental pollution and to keep this area smart,” said the sect’s leader Jameson Chirwa.

“We are not the only people in this village, this is a shrine and we need to keep it clean. We cannot let the congregants relieve themselves in the bush.”

At the shrine, the sect has constructed a state-of-the art administration block that constitutes of church offices.

The block that is neatly painted in blue gives colour to the whole environment and an outstanding structure within the vicinity.

On the eastern side of the shrine is a campsite where congregants pitch their tents.

At the campsite, some trees were spared and act as “streetlights” where electricity bulbs are hung.

The whole shrine is neatly wired and a big generator that runs 24/7 provides power for lights, PA system, stoves among other appliances.

The congregants are dressed smartly. The men wear navy blues suits, black shoes plus a matching sky and blue shirt that makes them look executive.

On the other hand the women wear blue dresses, pulling socks, white shoes. The young girls wear blue skirts and white blouses. However, some of the boys wear white garments.

Unlike other sects that brave harsh weather conditions, Zvapupu ZvaJesu hire and pitch tents for all the congregants.

When it comes to food, smartly dressed women in aprons do the cooking while young girls do the dishes.

The cooking is done for everyone, but congregants are allowed to supplement the diet in their tents if they want to.

“What you have seen is who we are and how we conduct our services. We are members of the apostolic sect and this is our way of doing things. God is the one who leads us,” said Bishop Chirwa.

ACCZ president Johannes Ndanga applauded Zvapupu ZvaJesu for their style and for upholding of human rights.

“This is a successful church that has been upholding human rights. They have order and their children are allowed to go to school freely,” Ndanga said.

“This is what we have been encouraging other sects to do. Some are still refusing to send their children to school and oppressing women and we have told them that human rights must be observed and upheld.

A borehole drilled at the church premises pumps water into a big tank reservoir that supplies water to different parts of the shrine. Meanwhile, the founding leader of Zvapupu ZvaJesu Apostolic Church July Jahwi Madhonho Chirwa was recently posthumously honoured with a five-star official order and merit award and certificate by the ACCZ.

The award is given to founding members of indigenous apostolic churches who participated during the liberation struggle.

He died in 1998 after forming the church in 1962. The certificate was received by his son Jameson who is the church’s new leader.

Zvapupu ZvaJesu has branches in countries like Cape Verde, Malawi, Namibia and Mozambique, among others.