A new multi-million dollar church that is being built near Masvingo in Southern Zimbabwe may have the answer to Zimbabwe’s woes.
A political solution has eluded Zimbabwe nine months after its inconclusive general elections in March and more than three months after the major political parties signed a power-sharing agreement on September 15.
There are now fears that the power-sharing agreement might collapse. One think tank, the International Crisis Group has even called for the major contenders, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Designate Morgan Tsvangirai to both step down and allow a transitional authority to take over.
The church is being built by the Zion Christian Church, an indigenous church founded in the 1920s by Rev Samuel Mutendi of Zimbabwe and Engenas Lekganyane of South Africa. It is now being run separately with Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi, son of Samuel Mutendi, heading the Zimbabwe chapter.
Nehemiah, a trained teacher and headmaster, has expanded the church and it now has chapters in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zambia.
He has built 10 schools, four primary and six secondary schools, and is planning to build a technical and vocational training centre.
Construction of the church at Mbungo Estates about 60 km east of the southern town along the Mutare Road, started in October 2005 and is expected to be completed by Easter next year.
So far the project has gobbled nearly US$2 million. The project is entirely being funded by church members because Bishop Mutendi says he wants them to prosper while here on earth and go to heaven when they die.
It is estimated that the church will accommodate between 15 000 and 18 000 people making it one of the biggest in Africa.
The church, which strongly believes in prophecy and has its own prophets as one of the pillars of the church, says the country’s biggest problems, AIDS and the economy, will be solved once the church is completed.
It says a cure for Aids which has devastated the country will be found. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe has declined from 62 years in 1990 to 37 years for men and 34 years for women largely because of AIDS.
It also says the Zimbabwe dollar which is currently worthless will regain its value and compete with major currencies in the region, the South African rand and the Botswana pula. The Zimbabwe dollar was stronger than the United States dollar, the rand and the pula at independence.
The prophecy has been widely publicised in the country’s biggest daily, The Herald, over the past three years when church followers make their annual pilgrimage to the holy shrine at Defe, in Gokwe in the Midlands Province.
Defe was the resting place of Samuel Mutendi who died on 20 July 1976. Church members make an annual pilgrimage to Defe to mark that day every year.
Bishop Mutendi says Zimbabwe today is like Israel during the reign of Saul. The Israelites were so poor that they had to go to the Philistines to sharpen their ploughshares, mattocks, axes and sickles. Zimbabweans have flocked out of the country into the diaspora to seek jobs so that they can feed their families and relatives at home.
After King Solomon built the Lord his temple, the Israelites were blessed. Today Jews and Israelis are among the wealthiest people on earth. Bishop Mutendi says the same will happen to Zimbabwe once the church is completed.
Though the church is small by comparison to the conventional churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church or the Methodist churches, it has a strong influence because most if its prophecies are fulfilled.