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Inside Harare’s fake churches

THE Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) says it does not have power to stop bogus prophets from conning people because churches are voluntary organisations.

By OBEY MANAYITI/XOLISANI NCUBE

Reverend Kenneth Mtata, the ZCC secretary general made the revelations after The Standard discovered during an investigation that there was a growing number of fake prophets in Harare who are stage-managing miracles to lure worshippers.

A group of people from the poor settlement of Epworth on the outskirts of Harare have found an easy way to make money through the fake prophets who lead charismatic churches. These ministries draw crowds through fake miracles.

The mabhidhiri (fake miracle actors who pretend Holy Spirit seizures and falling to the ground — hence their nickname mabhidhiri) — a group of people who move from one church to another giving false testimonies and partaking in fake miracles — are growing in numbers.

Investigations revealed that the actors are a well-knit network made up of tricksters and polished actors who charge $10 per church service.

One such group in the Domboramwari area is made up of commercial sex workers and hard-core criminals, which offers its services to fake prophets in Harare.

“One thing that you must understand is that this is business,” said Chipo Makusha, a commercial sex worker who admitted to going around churches giving false testimonies in exchange for money from the so-called prophets.

“Churches are a form of business for some and we are hired to give testimonies of how we were assisted by these church leaders, to “manifest” demons or claim healing and collapsing,” she added.

“People nowadays are so much into miracles, instant riches and luck.

“We have polished acts that can convince even an atheist.”

Makusha (27) is unemployed, divorced and is a mother of three minor children.

She refused to give our reporters permission to photograph the gang’s rendezvous but she volunteered names of several well-known churches that pay for their services from time to time.

“We can set up our market stalls in a new area a few days before the church leader visits. No one will suspect we knew each other before setting up business there,” she said.

“When they come and start praying and preaching, people will be indifferent at first, but when they start prophesying and getting into prayer sessions, they come directly to us.

“For example, I can manifest a demon, shouting on top of my voice describing how my relatives are jealous of my success or something.”

She added: “Imagine if there are three or four people who are prayed for and their stories ring true? At the end of the session, they give congregants their address and phone numbers.

“We continue going to that church for about five to six weeks and give testimonies of how we were healed of different aliments.
“People will start to believe and by the time that we leave, there will be people who will be convinced that they can get help.”

James Mundati* who claims to be the co-ordinator of the mabhidhiri, said his duty was to market the upcoming prophets and church leaders. He also links them with people willing to give fake testimonies in exchange for money.

“I go around advertising these churches, especially in remote areas. We plant people who will give testimonies of how they would have been helped.”

“A person can come on a stretcher bed and the man of God will conduct prayers and remove some small frogs that would have been planted under the patient’s clothes.

“In fact, there are many ways to convince people that they are seeing a true man of God.”

He said he considered what he does as business and never thinks about the consequences.

Mundati said most of the church leaders acquired their tools of the trade from traditional healers. The items include so-called anointing oil and water.

Mtata said ZCC’s hands were tied when it came to curbing such practices.

“We have heard about that but as a council, there is nothing we can do about it because we are a voluntary organisation,” he said.
“What we can say is that those that have seen that they are being cheated must leave those churches.

“It is very difficult for the council to take any action against those churches.

“What I can say is that those crooks are huge at the moment, not only in Zimbabwe, but in Africa as a continent.”

President Robert Mugabe recently bemoaned the proliferation of fake prophets, saying they were robbing poor people of their hard earned money.

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