Saturday, December 9, 2017

Martha and Mary in service if the Lord

Martha and Mary in service of the Lord

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
Martha and Mary were sisters. Their brother was Lazarus. At one point Jesus visited them at their house.

The scripture says: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10 v 38-42)

The two women waited upon the Lord in different ways. One was prepared to listen to the Lord while the other one was ready to work for the Lord. Such was the plight of the sisters — of the one who worked for the Lord and the one who sat down to listen to the Lord, which one was doing the right thing?

The great news was that both ladies were prepared to serve the Lord. One was working for the Lord by preparing food for him while the other one was working for the Lord by just sitting under his feet to give Him her ear. She wanted an understanding of the Lord’s work and to learn. Both acts constitute working for the Lord in the scheme of worship.  

What did the Lord do? The Lord understood that they were working for him in different ways, each one doing her own thing.

Each one of them did her part whole-heartedly. They worked very hard to please him. He was the centre of attraction.

People work for the Lord in different ways. They indeed would be doing well for the Lord. However, whatever work that a person does for the Lord should be done to the best of one’s ability. We cannot all be doing the same thing for the Lord because we are gifted differently. You do not want to think you are the only worker in the kingdom. All are called to serve.

When one chooses to work for the Lord, it must always be in the best interest of the kingdom of God. Naturally, we care for what we do as individuals and care less for what others are doing for the same Lord. We want to take the prize, but it is not a competition. What images are we projecting when we compete in the house of the Lord? We cannot be said to be working for the Lord yet not take notice of what others are doing for the same kingdom.

We do right when what we do fulfils the aspirations of the one we are working for. The Lord understands that His people are working for the kingdom and each one is doing their best to serve Him. As a collective, we must realise is that we are all working for the Lord. The Lord is the personhood to work for in all our small ways.

All people were created to work for the Lord in one way or the other. Do not be discouraged, discover your talent and work for the Lord to the best of your ability.

In this case, Mary was listening to the Lord while Martha was working in the kitchen then Martha complained that Mary did not care to help her. She was just sitting doing nothing listening to the Lord. This must have annoyed Mary because she was doing something. She was working. She was learning. She was doing her best under the circumstances. But the sister could not appreciate the kind of work Mary was undertaking. Jesus then said Mary had chosen what would not be taken away from her — an education.

They could have been doing the same thing but the other one chose to work for the Lord in a different way. When you have chosen to work for the Lord, you can either be doing the work at his feet or you can do it in the glare of everyone. When you are working for the Lord you should not be surprised to hear that other people are doing the same. No one should rubbish your efforts.
Whatever you are doing, you are free to work for the Lord in the way you can. Nothing is impossible. You can work for the Lord even in secret. There is no work which is lesser than the other. All is invaluable work when you do it in the name of the Lord.  
Many people like to be seen to be doing more for the Lord. They crave for an audience. Just doing something is enough, people do not matter. Their comments do not matter. Their acts of discouragement do not matter. Their competitive spirits do not matter. In the greater scheme of things, only God counts.  
Let those with ears hear.

l Levee Kadenge is a theologian at United Theological College. He can be contacted

at leveekadenge@gmail.com

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The church: The first steps towards unity

The church: The first steps towards unity

For years we have not known that the church is one. The church has always been one, but later got separated. This happened several years ago beginning with Martin Luther, the man behind the movement in 1517. He was a priest theologian who was firm.

He nailed 95 theses on the door of the church. Little did he know that what he had started was what was going to divide the church for a long time.

Most Protestants were brought to Harare to celebrate the coming back of the two greatest movements of all time. The Catholic Bishops Conference in Zimbabwe (CBCZ) also brought their members to this grand accession at the St Marys All Saints in Harare. This was a grand gathering to celebrate the coming together of the churches after a long time.

Among the invited dignitaries were officials from City of Harare including the mayor Bernard Manyenyeni. Many representatives from different churches from the city were also present. Diplomats were also present.

The chairperson of the Roman Catholic church said, “It is important that we can meet for joint worship on the eve of October 31, the date associated with the reformation. We meet with mixed feelings. On one hand we celebrate the renewal of the church through the ministry of Martin Luther and other reformers; but we also lament the divisions of the church of Jesus Christ. For this reason, we meet here today to both celebrate and repent.”     
For its part, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches said “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by the baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the death by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like this, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Thereafter the churches lamented together the many years they have been separated as if they were not children of one Lord.

For a long time, the church became fragmented and formed societies within societies. It is not the members’ fault as the labels are a norm. Unfortunately, there was no attempt for a long time to meet and celebrate the church as one entity. No wonder there were members in attendance who did not know that the church in this fractious form is divided.    

The church has continued to meet like nothing had gone wrong. The new Protestant movement and the old Catholic Church had not known a united church. This was the first time they had come together.

I have written somewhere that the divided church that we inherited seemed normal. We have even celebrated division in the manner we have conducted business. However, the church is better when it comes together.

The church was encouraged by the Second Vatican Council, “[to] gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowment from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognise the riches of Christ and the virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.” In this, Catholics and churches of the Reformation are called to embrace each other as sisters and brothers in the Lord.

This was followed by an apologetical song. A song that showed both the Catholics and the Protestants that they are contrite for the sins of the day. The sins of staying away from each other when they were supposed to be together worshipping as sons and daughters of one Lord and one faith. Instead of working together by bringing people together and thereby demonstrating that the word was brought out here to bind us together, the church was divided with each doing its own thing.

Men and women from across the divide put aside their differences to come to a demonstration of love and acceptance at the cathedral. The Anglican church was magnanimous in that they rose above the occasion and demonstrated they can be one with the rest and worship God in one spirit.

The atmosphere was electrifying in all the procedures that were taking place in the place of worship. Each leader took people from one stage of worship to the other. Nothing was left to chance and all those who had come to worship said it was worthwhile. The denominational atmosphere which was in the worship place was because it was the first time such a service had been held.
All congregants wanted to witness what the churches could do together. The churches left no stone unturned to demonstrate that the church is one. At least for an hour it was one church that was founded by Jesus Christ when he established it in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We hope that the church shall work towards unity. It was only the name of the Lord that was exalted. After the service the people discussed why they had kept each other at arm’s length. They all left the congregation happy, knowing that they have come from a service that was graced by God. Let
those with ears hear.
l Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College. He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com.
*As The Standard celebrates 20 years, it pays tribute to the late Bornwell Chakaodza who was editor of the paper from 2002 to 2005.

Cultural responsibilities are cast in stone

Cultural responsibilities are cast in stone

The Rev Dr Levee Kadenge


Funerals of all shapes and sizes begin in town for urban dwellers and then the body is taken to a rural home, its final resting place. When a parent with a rural home dies, they are taken home so that they lie in the same place as other fallen relatives.

When relatives come to funerals, they console and pay their last respects. In line with the Shona culture, the last respects are not paid at the son-in-law’s place, but at the son’s place or at the deceased’s abode. It is cultural and given that the body of the deceased should lie in state at the home of a son and not at a daughter’s house, come what may. It is the man who has the prerogative to take charge of the funeral.

Even when a mother was taken care of at her daughter’s place, when death visits, the brother takes over. It does not matter how poor this man might be, the responsibility is his.

When you raise your children, you have to do it knowing that their roles differ and they must fit in those roles seamlessly. If they are clear about their roles, they will not fight or exchange bad words when called to take responsibility. There will be no question about who should do what when duty calls.
When children grow up, they must be prepared for big tasks ahead of them. These are the duties they have to carry out in the future. Boys will become men and head families.

As life happens, you will be placed in such a context that brings you to do what you have been prepared to for the rest of your life. If your mentors did things right, you will not fail in your responsibilities later on in life. In a rural setting, all those around you will prepare you for your future tasks. 

When you are being sent to look after cattle, parents are not busying you for nothing. They can beat you up if you fail in that task because they are teaching you to take responsibility. Just by herding cattle, you develop different qualities that are critical later in life.

Recently a local woman passed on. The funeral was at her son’s place. That is the time we learnt she had a son.

The son, who had been overshadowed by the girls, had to claim his place as one to lead the mother’s funeral and to host the mourners. His sisters contributed towards funeral expenses as the brother played the father figure.

Since she was going to be buried in Hwedza, the funeral party left the son’s place for the rural home.
So, fathers and mothers, be assured that when you die the boys will take their roles as boys and girls will play supporting roles.

We saw it happen a couple of weeks ago. Such is the way of life when everything falls in place in the way the children were brought up. They are schooled to know the way they should follow, which includes taking care of elderly parents in time of need. We are happy everything went well and the son hosted the mourners. Thank you son for taking care of business when it was your turn. The last respects were paid at the rightful place.

Those with ears, let them hear.
l Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College, Harare.  He can
be contacted at leveekadenge@gmail.com.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Relatives can do better than just attending funerals


Relatives can do better than just attending funerals
By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
Parents should be looked after by those who would have remained behind. There is no reason why that shouldn’t be the case. I recently attended a funeral where there were several people but unfortunately, they did not know each other. I wondered what was happening at this funeral where each one who stood up to say something started by saying they did not know the other mourners.

The minister tried to bring order but could not. Her efforts were in vain because of the confusion since most of the mourners were seeing each other for the first time. The people had come from distant places to lend dignity to the funeral but did not seem like they were there to console each other. they gathered because they were related to the deceased in one way or the other. The deceased woman was in her late 90s.

It was a huge gathering of people brought together by death. It all started when one person stood up to give his speech and said that he was sure most people did not know each other. This is what he said; “I was brought up in this home when I was very young.  Little did I know that I would come to bury this old lady. I was brought up here as a young person by my parents and I went to schools in this community.” He had retraced his steps to the village to bury the lady who had played a role in his life when he was still young.

Another lady stood up and made a clear reference to that effect, that she also was brought up in the deceased’s family but very few people knew who she was. Then, it was a young woman’s turn to speak. This woman was very young indeed and she was coming to the village for the first time.

This is what she said; “They looked for me because I am in the lineage of the family that gave birth to the ‘child’.  I did not know that I was so important to the extent they had to dig for me and found me in the back of my rural area.  I am the mother of this one who has died, but this is my first time to come here. Today, I am here to bury my daughter and I am so honoured even though I did not know her during her lifetime.”

Such was the extent to which this woman belonged. She had several relatives who came from far and near but did not know that they were bound to each other by how they related with the deceased.
When the pastor realised that the people at the funeral did not know each other, she put away her planned notes and gave us a unique service on that beautiful day. She understood the shortcomings of the people that were gathered there that day. She started by saying that what she had prepared was going to be for the next generation. Today, she was going to preach on what she had sensed lacked at the funeral.

She said all her days in the ministry she had never come at a funeral that she met so many people who claimed that they did not know each other. She did blame the old woman, she also blamed relatives who did not visit her or each other. The deceased was a respected person in the community yet she did not create an opportunity for her to be visited by such a group of people who had come to mourn her. This included her relatives which she should have known herself.

For 14 years she had not been up and about like other people who would travel to and from her village.  She was wheelchair-bound.  So there was no way she could have travelled to see all her relatives. What could she have done to leave the village? She was bound to it by her incapacity.

We should check on each other when we are still strong in this life. Relatives should not wait for such sad events as death to come together and then seek to relate with each other during mourning. Why should one get a huge crowd of mourners when they were lonely in life? The ones that do not visit their incapacitated or sick relatives should not bother with paying the last respects.

At this funeral, there were so many people who had gone there for the first time. Why only appear to bury someone when there was no meaningful relationship when the deceased was still around? The minister was so touched she said first-time visitors should not have bothered coming.        

People should make an effort to cultivate relationships. It is very important. The journey to pay last respects does not make sense if there was no relationship to talk about in the first place. Get to know your relatives before they die.
Those with ears, let them hear.

l Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College. He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com.

One Response to Relatives can do better than just attending funerals

  1. Weevil-cum-G40 November 12, 2017 at 4:52 pm #
    Amen to that, Rev Dr Kadenge!


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Forest, the chemist and supermarket of all time

October 2, 2017 in Opinion

By the rev Dr Levee Kadenge 
Zimbabwe is endowed with traditions that have stood the test of time. These are culture and religion. The two are very tricky to separate. Where one is, the other is. Unfortunately, when Europeans came they made it their prime task to get rid of these two pillars of the African communities.

Before the coming of the whites, this land was controlled by chiefs and paramount chiefs who had jurisdiction over large pieces of land guided by Munhumutapa and Lobengula in the south. The latter had just come in from South Africa and settled in what is now called Matabeleland.

Whites came in when there were two major tribes: the Mashonas who spoke Shona and Ndebeles who spoke IsiNdebele.  Within the boundaries were other minority tribes that comprised among them, the Kalanga, Sotho, Venda, Tonga, Vapfumbi, maTshangana and Shangwe in designated parts of the country.

The Shona were divided into five groups, Korekore, Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika and Ndau. Among these various groups would be variations of both cultural and religious practices. At the end of the 17th century whites started coming in, adding another dimension into the mosaic religious and cultural differences that already existed.

Instead of whites accommodating what they found obtaining in the form of traditions which were expressed both through cultural and religious practices, they embarked on direct confrontation against the two. Their aim was to completely change all that they came across by introducing the church and the school. This is the time colonialists and missionaries established their basis in order to control and subdue the people and the land and everything the people owned and practised. 

All these people inhabiting the land had complete systems that ran their affairs as regards both culture and religion.  The forest was both the chemist and supermarket of all time. Whatever man wanted he got from the forest in abundance; fresh and natural.

Traditional food was and is still the best legacy given to us by our forefathers.  Today any doctor who does not recommend traditional foodstuffs has to interrogate his/her conscience. Thank God there is still a lot of it for us to take and restore our health.  Ignoring our food is just as good as committing suicide.

These people did not lack anything in terms of their everyday lives. They had an elaborate health system that dealt with all ailments to the extent that there were experts who specialised in different diseases that affected society. They also had an intact cultural life that was satisfying to them. Their religion gave them the latitude to exercise their faculties which led them to enjoy life on a daily basis. Dance and song made life make sense.

Traditional religion was their way of life. It affected all facets of their lives. Food was the best ever.  It was both nutritious and medicinal. One did not need a chemist. Indeed, health provision was a total package. They say you are what you eat and you eat what you are.

Midwives were in abundance and carried their duties with expert hands. Medicine men and women had the best herbs for all the ailments that affected people.  This was real, we are not just romanticising. 

Surgeries, both caesarean and other complicated injuries were conducted using sharp iron knives that were made from iron ore that had long been mined in Hwedza mountains.

Experts/mhizha were all over villages and these processed iron ore into steel which eventually was sold to traders for use in various tasks as cutting tools. Goat skins would be used to blow furnaces that burnt iron and turned it into steel with ease. Those gifted with such talents would spend days on end blowing these furnaces to produce as much steel as possible, some of which was exported. Barter trade was the game in the nation.   

Legend has it that even brain surgeries were conducted in the villages with great success rates. It is believed that the biblical King Solomon came for the iron ore from these mountains. 

Those who specialised in treating particular diseases would be the most sought after in the length and breath of the land. Mental cases were dealt with successfully.  In essence, no health complaint was left unattended. There were specialists who dealt with such cases.

On the cultural aspect, it should be noted that education began in the home and knowledge impartation was systematically done by all those who had roles in bringing up the young ones.

Homesteads/villages became the education centres which were then assisted by the expanded community which supervised the norms and values of different communities. Each community was expected to produce people who would fit into the society and be acknowledged as worthy by surrounding villages. The family was the centre. Families were either monogamous or polygamous. The latter came into being when a man could afford to marry as many wives as he could.
Marriage was at the centre of African life. Tokens were given to parents of wives as ways of cementing marriages. A hoe was enough to give to one’s in-laws as lobola.

Cattle also could exchange hands as lobola. These were family affairs. No individual would marry his/her daughters without the involvement of the extended family.  The whole family came together with representatives of the one who would be coming to marry congregating for the purpose of executing the marriage. As it took the whole village to raise a child, it also took a village to marry a couple.   

An elaborate system of relationships was at the centre of African lives.  To this effect, everyone is related to everyone through societal links; be they marriages, friendships and collaborations even in war. Alliances were common when a particular group would help the other in times of need, for example when fending off an enemy. Cross tribal marriages were arranged to bring harmony among different groups.

The church and the school became the ideological tools while the colonialist represented the repressive power which did not hesitate even to use the gun to force people to comply. The fact that Christianity and colonialism came at the same time, is something which will continue to occupy us as we study the effects of these two institutions.  One wonders what would have happened if these two institutions came at different times?

When confronted with these two arms of western power, African culture and religions took a back seat. They had to retreat for survival

The best the colonial governments and the churches did was to preserve local languages, vehicles of cultural and religious values. Let those with ears hear.

Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College.  He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com   

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Denominationalism is a gift we could do without


September 11, 2017 

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
Zimbabweans have accepted Christianity as one of the major religions. Christianity is seen among the locals as the message of hope and a means to get salvation through their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.  This faith came to us through different denominations/traditions, beginning with the mainline churches introduced by western missionaries. Times have changed and now there are several versions of the gospel that have either been locally founded or brought lately by newer teachings from inside and outside the country.

The phenomenon has not only affected Zimbabweans, but is widely spread across the region or even the continent.  Some even claim that it is a worldwide occurrence that is sweeping all over. But, one can safely say denominationalism is a gift we could do without.

The multiplicity of the teachings have been a bother to our population. About 80% of Zimbabweans would claim to be Christian.  Their dilemma now is which one is the way to follow amidst the various versions that are knocking at their doors of faith.

This article seeks to analyse this religious side of our lives and how we have been affected either for better or for worse.  We do not seek to judge but to reveal the facts as people are affected by the teachings coming their way.  The unfortunate thing that happened to African Christianity is that it came already divided.  Yet the original message of Christ was that His followers may be one.

The history of Christianity has been chequered with division right from the time of its inception.
Paul complained when the first Christians at Corinth were labelling themselves as followers of this one and not of the other. This irked Paul to an extent that he had to write a strong warning by denouncing such divisions. (1 Corinthians 1 vs 12).

The church that was founded on the rock [Peter] that became the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of Rome eventually divided between the Eastern Orthodox and the Church of Rome.
As the Roman Empire spread across Europe, the rest of Europe became “roman” and the church followed the lands that were conquered  The Pope became the head of the church in the Roman world as it was known.  In fact, the church followed the flag.

When England came under the Roman Empire, things moved on well for some time until King Henry VIII wanted to marry a second wife because he wanted an heir to the throne.
The church could not allow that. Incensed by such refusal, the king decided to break away from the Roman yoke.  As a result, the Church of England was born in 1534 with Henry VIII declaring himself the head of it.

In the 1500s, there were growing cries for reformation in the church.  Martin Luther, who was a Catholic priest, became the prominent figure who protested against the many excesses of the Catholic Church. Primarily, he was against the payment of indulgences and celibacy in the church.

In 1517, Luther nailed the 95 thesis on the doors of his church at Wittenberg in German protesting against the church.  Eventually, Luther was excommunicated in 1521 and he also excommunicated the Pope himself. He actually was sentenced to death by the church by ordering anyone who came across him to kill him.  Such was the practice of the church.

The Great Evangelical Awakening of the 16th and 17th centuries saw so many brands of Christianity emerging as a result of the confidence that was ushered in by Luther. Because of space constraints, I will mention just the rise of Methodism that was initiated by John and Charles Wesley in England in the mid-1700.

John was a talented organiser while Charles was a great song-composer.These started a group of dedicated students at Oxford into a prayer cell.  That was unheard of in the Church of England.The two died Church of England priests but their followers eventually formed their own denominations after the death of John in 1791.

The Great Evangelical Awakening period became the period of missionary activities across the world. Propelled by the voyages of discovery, wherever, these ships went, so the gospel was also taken there.  At the time of discoveries and later colonisation period many denominations had come into being and these went into missionary activities across the world in such a big way.

The world was bombarded with a divided church right from the onset of missionary activities.Indeed, the Catholic Church had spread the gospel earlier on but such activities did not last in many instances.

The 19th and 20th centuries continued to see the church spreading like veld fire all over the place.  The message the new converts got was that of a divided church competing for followers to accept their different brands of church practices.

Colonised places would be exposed to denominations that were following their subjects.  This is how many parts of the African continent would be evangelised by differing denominations coming from the countries of origin.  People seemed not to have minded the divisions.As the churches spread their influence, locals also saw possibilities of coming up with their own versions of church.  African Initiated Churches started to be formed in colonial countries being led by vibrant former members of the denominational churches.

A number were divided because of racial segregation and others because of different interpretations of the gospel.  Individuals across the African continent and in the newly evangelised colonies sprang up with vibrant churches that attracted multitudes of followers.

The choice of churches became so many that the locals found it easy to follow whoever they wanted.
Many of these new churches would major in one aspect of Christian experience like being Pentecostal in their approaches or emphasise on healing and other specialties that go with gospel promises. Members would migrate from one church to another with ease.

Break away became the order of the day.On any worship day, the African terrain is dotted with several groupings in immaculate temples, on rocks, in the open or under trees listening to the word of God.

Of late, there has been the proliferation of the new wave of Christian experience in the form of the prosperity gospel. This has primarily come from the United States.

Zimbabwe has had its fair share as Christians are invited to sample this brand of Christianity or the other.“Prophets” and “Men of God” have now become the centre of Christian attraction. Some of these leaders have instantly become very rich from the pickings they make from their hard-pressed followers who are seeking solace in their teachings.

The previous indulgences had come in a different way.  Some prosperity gospel pushers started by selling “blessed towels” which people could use by wiping any car they wanted and they were promised they would get such vehicles.

Anointed items which ranged from oil to bricks would be sold at exorbitant prices.Seeding became another source of money.  Rich individuals would be asked to seed their latest models of cars in the promise that they would get 10 times more.

The latest developments are that they have moved to one-on-one, consultations which are so expensive. You book the prophet and meet him or her privately. Recently,there has been several court cases involving the prophets and their erstwhile followers who would be claiming of having been duped.

These emerging churches have major business plans which have helped them to come up with projects which cost millions of dollars.  It is like the reverse of the Gospel where Jesus feeds the 5 000 from five loaves of bread and two fish — the 5 000 are now feeding one prophet or man/woman of God. What a traverse of faith!

Let those with ears hear!
Levee Kadenge is a Theologian based at United Theological College in Harare.He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com.

Kwese TV exposed the BAZ rot

1 Response to Denominationalism is a gift we could do without

  1. https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/d339b7b78c6a0cfadbc43f45e73083b7?s=40&d=mm&r=g
Janana wa Bikaz September 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm #
A well researched article,people like you Rev Kadenge,should stand up and preach the word of God as it is.These so called modern day prophets have realised that a people can do anything to slip away from poverty or to get healed from sickness and hence these prophets cum- con artists are always shouting about healing and prosperity.God never said everyone shall be rich or everyone shall not fall sick.One has to use his or her own faith to get healed,not by the gods of these shameless con artists,but by the living God Who belongs to everyone,Who created all mankind,Who created the whole wide world and everything in it NOT MWARI WA PROPHET NHINGI.For evil to triumph,let good men do nothing!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Church an accomplice in demonising local traditions


Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

September 3, 2017 in Opinion
The religious landscape in Zimbabwe is littered with various shades of beliefs and practices that range from the mild to the bizarre in both traditional and Christian beliefs.In local traditions, there are healers and diviners represented by Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association (Zinatha). There are also vana tsikamutanda (witch-hunters) who stride the length and breadth of the country causing havoc in many a family.  On the Christian terrain, we have the mainline churches on one hand and on the other the pentecostal ones, which preach the gospel of prosperity, siphoning millions of dollars from unsuspecting followers.

When will the religious Zimbabweans have a break and get treated like people who are godly and deserve respect as regards their beliefs? Desperate situations often demand desperate solutions.  The economy has forced many to seek spiritual solutions to personal problems.

African Traditional Religion got its full independence in 1980 when the country got its freedom.  Previously, there were so many restrictions which came as a result of the misconception of things traditional. The church became a major accomplice in demonising local practices. Understandably so, because the idea of doing away with everything African was at the core of both the missionary and white colonial administrators’ agendas.

The Europeans did not give their hosts due respect.  Conversely, when whites arrived, the locals were at pains as to how to accommodate them.  History says elders from various parts of the country travelled to Matonjeni in Matabeleland to ask for advice as to how to deal with the newcomers.  The shrine was the religious centre for the entire country.
 
The Oracle/Voice at the shrine was quick to come up with a solution on how to treat the white invaders. When the elders reported that some parts of the country had been invaded by “people without knees”, for whites came wearing trousers and thereby hiding their knees, local wisdom invoked its sense of inclusivity.  The voice responded by telling a story that a long, long time ago one of their sisters migrated to the North and probably had children there. Because of the weather, the myth had it they turned white.  So these were their aunt’s children coming back.  In short, they had to be accommodated as nieces and nephews.

In the Shona tradition, muzukuru (nephew/niece) or in Ndebele culture umzukulu have a loose relationship with sekuru (uncle).  Whatever muzukuru does should be at the behest of his uncle. So whites were accepted as vazukuru.  They were accorded freedom, but these vazukuru abused the hospitality by taking over the land.  Such was the relationship which progressed from acceptance to questions being raised as to the conduct of the newcomers.

As documented, these vazukuru used all sorts of methods to take over land which ranged from dishonesty to the use of force.  The indigenous eventually found themselves in sandy soils while vazukuru took the best in strategic places which would be serviced by both rail and road systems. 
Because vazukuru had their own agenda, they proceeded to treat their hosts with disdain.  Everything African was suspect — from religion to culture to the extent that the missionary and colonial authorities worked together to achieve their purposes.  Even though on the surface their agendas seemed different, in reality, they both wanted to control the locals so that they would be of use to their aims and objectives.

A system that was complete in terms of how it approached health issues was destroyed. Gradually, locals were encouraged to seek treatment from clinics and hospitals established across the nation.  Indeed, missionaries established their own clinics while government did the same in various parts of the country.  The teachings from both systems discouraged people from seeking help from the tried and tested local system in preference of hospitals and clinics. The missionaries preached against local herbs because they were associated with evil simply because they were different from the modern medicine.  
 
The education system was such that it promoted both the culture and the religion of the newcomers. The most dangerous thing was the mental shift that was being instilled in the locals to hate themselves and their practices.

While western medicine gained the upper hand, locals found ways of secretly seeking help from own medicine men. But with time and because of the sinking in of the teachings the local healers who were given names like witch doctors and diviners/herbalists, they became suspect because their medicines were not refined or tested in laboratories.

That was to change at independence. Things could never be the same. The new government was amenable to local practices to the extent that Zinatha was established. To buttress its importance, the organisation was led by an educationist of repute, the late professor Gordon Chavunduka — a sociologist at the University of Zimbabwe who eventually became the vice-chancellor in the early 1990s. He worked with other firebrand doctors in the mould of Herbert Ushewokunze and Simon Mazorodze who headed and deputised the Health ministry respectively.

In spite of the positive stance of the government toward Zinatha, the growing Christian community was torn between acceptance of local medicines and shunning them. The government encouraged traditional practitioners to be registered and to work together with western-trained medical personnel.  While the healers were excited to work in hospitals and with the Ministry of Health, the formally-trained health personnel never fully accommodated their counterparts.

Because of the inclusive approach by the government, the traditionalists felt vindicated and went about doing their trade with gusto. Little did they know that among them would arise all sorts of practitioners who would tarnish their image among locals.  There arose individuals who went across the nation claiming to sniff witches and flashing them out.  They call themselves tsikamutandas. The nation is divided.  Being Christian, most communities do not take the practices positively.

Communities and families are torn apart. The government has not taken drastic measures against these practitioners who impose themselves on unsuspecting villagers. They group people and sniff out witches and those alleged to have dangerous medicines in their homes. They force everyone to participate. If someone refuses to take part, they are accused of hiding something.

To make matters worse, clients are asked to pay through livestock. These witch-hunters are sometimes invited but in most cases they impose themselves, claiming to have come to cleanse the villages.

Those with ears, let them hear.
Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College in Harare.  He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com.