LET’S roll back to 2011 and envisage a situation where top-of-the-range vehicles are parked neatly outside Madzibaba Nzira (real name Godfrey Nzira)’s Julanifiri Santa Shrine in Chitungwiza. The place is filled to capacity as people from all walks of life attend the Sunday session to receive spiritual healing from the revered self-confessed prophet.
Today, 13 years later, the once holy ground resembles an abandoned home with overgrown trees threatening to bury it while a few men are taking turns to guard it against possible invasion by other apostolic sect leaders.
The controversial Madzibaba Nzira died in 2011 a few months after he was freed from serving a 20-year jail term for rape.
He was in March 2003 slapped with a 42-year prison term following conviction on seven counts of rape and one of indecent assault involving female congregants.
However, 10 years were suspended on condition of good behaviour before another 12 years were slashed by the High Court on appeal.
The late prophet, who led thousands of congregants at Johane Masowe Echishanu apostolic sect was a renowned bootlicker of the late former President Robert Mugabe.
After his release from prison, Nzira held a week-long celebration that was attended by the who-is-who of Harare at that time.
Though his end was marred by controversy, Madzibaba Nzira was a popular spiritual healer whose shrine attracted top government officials and renowned business people, among others.
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He was also one of the richest prophets on the land.
Today, Madzibaba Nzira has “resurrected” through his son Shepherd (42) who has set up his base in Mutare.
His residence in the sprawling suburb of Hobhouse has been turned into a shrine, with hundreds of worshippers and those afflicted with various ailments flocking to the mansion for spiritual healing.
He has also adopted his father’s title — Madzibaba Nzira, with some of his clients coming from as far as the United States and Europe.
In an interview with NewsDay Weekender, Shepherd, who has renamed the sect as Zvakazarurwa Zvevapostori, narrated how he ended up inheriting his father’s spiritual powers.
“I relocated to Mutare unexpectedly in 2009. I went to Mutare to conduct a spiritual healing. I assisted a lot of people, but there was a person who had an ailment which took me over a week to deal with,” he recalled.
“There was high demand for my services and I kept helping people in Mutare until I started staying there. I was offered a house by one of the people whom I had assisted, who saw me having roots in Manicaland province.”
He said his prophetic journey started while he was in high school.
“I started the prophetic life when I was in Form Three in Chitungwiza. l am the son of the late prophet Madzibaba Godfrey Nzira. The late prophet met my mother when he was doing God’s work. My father was a great healer.
“When I embarked on the same journey, people thought maybe I was trying to ride on my father’s popularity but it is something which started when I was young. It is a calling,” he added
Asked whether he was better than his late father, Shepherd said: “When we do God’s work, it is not a competition, we are helping people. Yes, I can emulate my father but there are other things that I do which the late Madzibaba Nzira could not do.”
He claimed that he is able to snare those involved in witchcraft.
In 2021, a Nyanga family made headlines after it camped at Nzira’s residence fleeing from goblins that reportedly claimed the lives of more than 10 family members.
Turning to his siblings, Shephard said: “I have a good relationship with my siblings and other family members. They all support the ministry.”
As fame finds its place in Nzira’s life, it is yet to be seen whether he will not fall into the same trap as his father whose spiritual journey was blighted by rape allegations that resulted in him being incarcerated.