A recent study by the Ministry of Health and Child Care which was reported in a number of local media outlets claimed that about 85 percent of Zimbabweans are shunning doctors and consulting prophets for illnesses. None of the reports went beyond what the Ministry declared to be the major finding.
It is my contention that there was a need for the reporters to interface the study’s findings with the current socioeconomic situation. Unpacking the confluence between religion, economy and politics in the present day Zimbabwe would give one a vantage point into understanding how these three pillars of the society influence one another. More so, it would give insight into how the three have collectively brought us to where we and what further influence they can have on the wellbeing of our nation.
Of prophets and their followers
The level at which the nation has all of a sudden become so much religious smacks of something terribly wrong. To put it into perspective, religion for many has become a game of addition by subtraction where one has to give in order to get, though what you get is usually less than what you give.
What is worrying most is that unlike traditional churches that often encourage citizens to be politically conscious, the mushrooming churches are politically deaf and economically blind. They fit well into Karl Marx’s description of religion as the opium of the masses. In simple terms, some prophets have become peddlers of what they call “stubborn faith” which inebriate people to the extent of rejoicing in their man-made misery.
Despite the economic crisis and our famed educational level one still finds some economically struggling congregants showering their prophets and pastors with presents and some good amounts of tithe. I am aware that it is a common belief that, tithe does not belong to the pastor, but to God. If it is so, then why are the pastors amassing and flaunting luxuries purchased by the same tithe.
Week in week out we read about people who are duped by their pastors/prophets, surprisingly the same people continue investing in the same prophets who have pending cases of fraud, rape and forgery.
One may argue that my article is only looking at the poor and the desperate and ignoring the rich who are also beneficiaries of the “miracles”. Why should we worry about the rich and famous when we are living in a country without a currency of its own, with over 95 percent unemployment rate, an economy that is at its lowest ebb and a country that celebrates the official opening of a roadside fence and internet cafes ?
For the lack of reliable statistics, one can make a rule of thumb and postulate that a percentage close to that of unemployment rate is living below the poverty line and a considerable number is living under the destitution line in both rural and urban setups. Therefore it is fair for this article to be concerned about the wellbeing of the deprived that are often preyed on by politicians whose promises never reach fruition and prophets whose prophecies are for sale.
Even those at the top echelons of governance have not been spared; they have also had their own dose from the same religion concoction.
Our generation has witnessed a sobering case of how religion defeats logic when career politicians went as far as believing that Zimbabwe’s fuel woos had been put to rest when one n’anga, Rotina Mavhunga claimed that she had found a rock that oozes diesel. It was even more sensible as young kids to eat a raw farding-bag so as to up our whistling skills than to see a group of politicians sheepishly going through the n’anga’s incantations.
Voting – Religion Nexus
Because most prophets own flourishing businesses in the country despite the harsh economic environment, it is obvious that they prefer the present chaotic economic environment which is ideal for profiteering, rent seeking and underhand transactions.
Consequently, encouraging their congregants to vote with their conscience and bring about a better Zimbabwe is one thing wouldn’t dare. Reason being that, it would bring about a sustainable political and economic dispensation that would lead to better livelihoods, a new world outlook, a woke populace and a wider choice of socioeconomic activities to pursue.
The less desperate people are is the less they fall for cheap money spinning miracles and prophecies. The subsequent results would be that the size of their congregation would trim up and their businesses will have to adhere to fair practices which are highly competitive.
Though modern evangelism has not penetrated much into the countryside, traditional healers Apostolic and ZCC sects have huge number of loyal followers in the rural areas that they often remind of how the current leadership is mandated by God to transform lives for better.
A task for the opposition movements
The onus to restore the minds of the masses to the “factory settings” lies with politicians in the opposition and anyone who wishes to see a better Zimbabwe in their lifetime. The mental docility that religion is encrypting on the psyche of the masses should be reversed.
The need to court support from churches is more important today than ever. Besides common features of Zimbabwe’s elections such as intimidation, violence, and food aid manipulation, religion will have a significant role in determining the winners and losers of the 2018 elections; whoever wins it wins the elections.
However, it should be noted that the task will not be a stroll in the park considering that some prophets and pastors preach that Zimbabwe’s economic salvation will come through raining gold dust, anointing oil, wristbands, car stickers etc.
There is also a need for the opposition to find ways of wooing political bystanders and fence-sitters. With the rise in the use of social media and high levels of unemployment there is a potential of a boom in the number of new voters who may swing to the side of the opposition.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that of these new voters are not a given as most of them do not identify with any of the existing political parties in terms of their trademark struggles.
Therefore, there is a need for the opposition to roam this unchartered territory and take advantage of the present socioeconomic chaos to sell their vision of a better Zimbabwe. The current Youth Interface Rallies by Zanu PF are a testimony to the fact that the youth will definitely have a bigger say in the 2018 elections.
As it stands, it is apparent that the masses are a shared feast for politicians and prophets. Prophets thrive on a hopeless people while politicians prey on religion drunk citizens who are willing prisoners of their faith and whose cognitive dissonance is hinged on the premise of a better life in the next life.
Khuluma Afrika is a center for investigative journalism and political analysis.
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