ESAP, religion and hardship


ESAP with its various interpretations ranging from Eternal Suffering for the African People to Enormous State Approved Poverty is now here to stay. Its effects are beginning to bite almost everyone. One sector, though, seems to be thriving from the hardship the people are facing, and that is religion.

Almost every empty space that can be utilised has been converted to some form of preaching ground. Even the state Lottery Hall, bus stops, parking bays and trains are being used to preach the word of the Lord.

I have never personally had anything against religion having been brought up a Christian. But I have always been against what I term cults. In fact, I have always found it easy to believe that God exists because we have a vernacular or native name for him.

I cannot, however, entertain such beliefs as that recently propagated by the Koreans that the World would end on October 28. Thousands of believers waited in vain to be “ruptured” and meet their saviour, Jesus Christ. When he did not pitch up some of the leaders had the audacity to claim that he had been delayed by traffic. That I will not accept.

I am not saying others should follow suit. No, I cannot dare say that because we have freedom of association and worship in this country. Every person is free to choose his or her own religion.

I believe, however, that the development of such cults in a Third World country like Zimbabwe where more than half the population is struggling to make ends meet as indicated by the numbers seeking government drought relief food is dangerous. It is also disastrous because more than half of the country’s youths are unemployed.

If people turn to God merely because they are in financial dire straits, or have no food, this may not be genuine conversion. What happens if there is a good season or if they strike some good fortune like getting a job? Will they continue to believers or will they turn around?

The most dangerous person in any system or establishment is one who has been into a system or establishment and gets disgruntled and leaves. That person will have nothing good to say about that system or establishment.

Look at the children of those whose faith forbids drinking or smoking. When they rebel they become the worst drunkards and drug abusers. Some even become peddlars.

And for the young, the truth is simply that they still have a long way to go. Life is ups and downs and there is no use claiming you have been born again when you have not yet tasted the niceties of life. The odds are that these youths will strike a chance one day. What happens then? Will they continue to uphold their faith or will they become disillusioned young men who will have nothing good to say about religion. Instead they will try at all times to convince their colleagues that there is nothing like God?

The number of charismatic churches that are springing up in the country is also not healthy. If the aim of these churches was merely to preach the word of the Lord, that would be no problem. But it appears that a great many of them are in it for the money, which no doubt, everyone is after today.

Most of these churches demand 10 percent cent of their followers’ earnings in what is popularly known as “chegumi”. If this money were used to help church followers or their families or starving people that would also not bother me. The truth is that it is used for the upkeep of the pastor who usually goes by some grandiose title of bishop, president or something else fancy when he has no theological training at all. All that the leaders of these churches need is a good bible and a good highlighter to mark provocative verses in the bible.

The church leaders in question will always tell you that whatever they get are donations. This is far from the truth because some even keep registers of how much each member has contributed. Some church followers even end up in arrears. How does one end up in arrears on donations if they are not pledged or enforced?

Because of the massive cash inflow the pastor ends up living in a posh suburb, in a palace which ostensibly belongs to the church but all that the church followers ever get in this house is a cup of tea, that is, if they know how to get there in the first place.

The followers on the other hand live on the verge of starvation having given the bulk of their money to the church. They are kicked around from one place to another since most of them become perpetual lodgers because they cannot afford to buy houses of their own.

In fact, what seems to be even more dangerous with these churches is that there is an element of brain washing. The Insider understands that one church follower in Masvingo, a senior bank employee, stole from his bank to give to the church. The theft was discovered and he was fired. Up to now there is nothing the church has done to help him. He is now the laughing stock of Mucheke.

Some followers abandon their fields at this time of the year to go and work on those of the bishop. They help to weed and harvest. And because they spend most of their time at the bishop’s farms they reap nothing. Since the bishop only supplies them with food when they are working on his farms they end up queuing for government drought relief food.

Other churches do not even allow their followers to watch television or listen to local radio stations because this detracts them from God’s path. On the other hand their pastors have television sets in almost each bedroom. They also have video cameras and filming crews. Every service they hold is taped and the videos are sold to followers to watch at home grossing the church leader more income. If all this is in the name of the Lord please count me out.- Letter from the publisher


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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