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

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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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bringing up children not a stroll in the park

August 27, 2017 

the Bornwell Chakaodza columnRev Dr Levee Kadenge

Events of recent days have left Zimbabweans bewildered.  The alleged brawl by first lady Grace Mugabe in South Africa and the inconvenience caused by the grounding of planes both in Zimbabwe and South Africa Zimbabwe have been dominating print, electronic media and social network sites.  Thank God there seems to be a lull, but a few lessons have to be learnt from these debacles.

Some people have sought to link the events, only to add to the confusion. Our purpose in this article is to look at what our unhu/hunhu/ubuntu makes of the goings on and what we can learn from the perplexing events that have left the nation shell-shocked.

What has taken place is evidence that something is wrong with our nation at the present time.  Why is it that people seem to celebrate when others are suffering? Local wisdom says mugoni wepwere ndeasinayo [One who claims to be a good parent does not have children]. Those who have children know the difficulties of raising them. There is no one who is an expert in bringing up children and the same applies to Grace Mugabe as she tries to keep Robert Jnr and Bellarmine in check. 

Because of the complications that come about when raising children, African wisdom has come up with many proverbs that try to caution against rubbing it in when one is in dire straits. What is happening in one household may visit yours the next day.

When the Shona say afirwa haatariswe kumeso, what they mean is when someone is grieving, it is not the time to load them with poking questions. Whatever status we may have, the bottom line is that we are all human and we face such challenges when our children are growing up.  What the parents need most is counselling.  The children too need counselling.  We are all vulnerable beings irrespective of status.

The worst any person wants is to be jeered at when they are experiencing problems, especially those that pertain to children’s behaviour.  Such a time like this, is the time for those who are close —be they clergy or pastors — to take the opportunity to give counsel.  No one knows it all.  Parenting is a life-long career.  In such cases, they do not need to be invited. 

One’s behaviour in public is reflective of what is happening in the privacy of their home. When strife persists, one can be permanently affected, leading to what psychologists refer to as compensatory behaviour.

The busy schedules of most of our leaders leave them with little time with their children.  On the other hand, even those with all the time may not raise perfect families.  “For what profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul” (Mark 6 v 36).  Peer pressure takes over as children seek to emulate others.

Bringing up children is not a stroll in the park. Those who come from rich families may be spoilt by having plenty, while those who come from poor families, are deprived and suffer from lack of everything.  These two extremes may not be the best conditions of bringing up children.  Even those who are in between may not be the ideal circumstances of bringing up children. 

When a fellow man is facing challenges in their family, it is time for all of us to rally behind them.  The assumption that all is well in our families at all times when we bring up children is not true.
Maybe when our situations are different, there is this belief that those who have everything are brought up well.  Yes, in some cases it may be true but it may only be in our minds, when the reality on the ground is different.  Often those who are bringing up children are first timers and they make blunders in the process and these may be detected at a stage when they are no longer able to control the children.

The other factor that makes people unsympathetic is that the society is so polarised to the extent that if anything happens to those who are perceived to be rich, powerful families, because of their status, kindness to them is out of question.  Yet these are the people who are most vulnerable. 

We see across the world in some dynasties that there is a pattern of raising children of nobility or royalty.  In some cases, there will be special schools and special advisors in the form of counsellors — be they religious or professionals who are hired to stabilise these families.  This, however, is no guarantee that everything will be alright.

Riches have their advantages while poverty has its own.  A balancing act may be something we cannot fathom easily. Being super rich has its own risks while being in abject poverty is also risky.  The two extremes make people victims of their circumstances.  While we all want to be rich, if we are not very rich, we may not be aware of the dangers that go with it. 

The Shona wisdom has it rine manyanga hariputirwe [nothing can be hidden forever]. Our local wisdom maintains that whatever is being covered up will one day come out. It may be a question of time but the truth will eventually come in whatever form fate will bring. The events in South Africa are a cry for help.

Let those with ears hear.
Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College.  He can be contacted at leveekadenge@gmail.com

One Response to Bringing up children not a stroll in the park
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Ngazvirehwe Sezvazviri August 27, 2017 at 11:28 am #
Well said and sound advice. However, when one of the parents of the little brats goes around blasting people left, right and center, people being people and not God will have their own fun just as the mother does humiliating grown-ups at the slightest opportunity.The mother is the cause of the negative attitude some people are having towards the first family’s woes.She has spent much of her time telling better organized people to be organized when she should be counseling her wayward children.If the truth cannot be said about the not so motherly behavior of the boys’ mother then we will have not have provided worthwhile advice to the family.The boys’ mother needs to spend much of her time counseling her boys than blasting morally upright adults.She has sacrificed her motherly role for political mileage and it is a case of chickens coming home to roost.She wants to be Presidential advisor, cabinet ministers supervisor, national counselor, women’s league chairperson, business person and a globe-trotter all in one. Given such a scenario, it is no wonder that this is now happening to the first family.The father is burdened with stately duties such that he spends less time with the boys and the mother should have been helping in this area but she is obsessed with political grandstanding.The behavior of the boys is a clear indication of the neglect they have suffered for long. I am afraid that these boys may have already been targeted long back by drug peddlers and what is now needed is rehabilitation for them so that they are helped out of this mess.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Celebrating autonomy and freedom of worship

August 20, 2017 in Opinion
The Bornwell Chakaodza column By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
In spite of the uncertainty in Zimbabwe, celebrations have never been left out of our calendar. At birth we celebrate through singing, when someone has died we celebrate the life of the deceased in style.  On most of our celebratory occasions, there is a lot of singing, drumming and dancing. The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ), which came to Rhodesia in 1891, is celebrating 40 years of autonomy at the National Sports Stadium on August 17-20 2017, having been weaned from the British Methodism in 1977.

August is a traditional month of celebrations. After celebrating Heroes’ Day which is followed by Defence Forces Day, the remaining days in the month are taken by various church organisations where they meet for annual conventions. These gatherings mark the end of one year and the beginning of another. New leadership takes over and preparations for the following year’s celebrations begin in earnest.

Traditionalists also exploit the month of August by encouraging all those who will be considering honouring their dead by holding kurova gura/umbuyiso, bringing back of spirits of the dead ceremonies. This month is packed with these activities. The month of November will be out of the question because it is a month of taboo. There should be no celebrations of any kind ranging from weddings or even graduation parties for the month is considered holy because that is “when ancestors are on break”.

August then becomes the busiest month in the year when people are free to engage in their rituals, be they church or traditional. The month becomes a month of renewal.  Schools will be closed and parents have time to take part in activities of one’s choice. No wonder some call the month of August the month of happiness, it is a month of laughter, it is a month of joy.

From August 21 to 26, there will be another celebration of the Harare Agricultural Show under the theme: Climate resilience — The new Agricultural Frontier. No other month can beat August this year with all these activities that will see their days.  Both the spiritual side of life and the material side will be catered for in a big way. Those who have gone will also be remembered and celebrated in these activities.

The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe also chose this month to celebrate 40 years of autonomy. Previously the church was run from the mother church in UK. On October 18 1977 the local church was given independence to run its own affairs at the former Municipality Sports Centre.  The first leader of the church was the Rev Andrew Majoni Ndhlela who had been its leader from 1965.  The missionaries had seen that their time of leading the church had to come to an end and left the locals to do their own thing.

This meant a lot of responsibilities being put on the shoulders of the local leadership. Some of those issues the church was grappling with was the indigenisation of the church.
local support had to be solicited for and developments had to be done in terms of raising the status of its schools. The church leadership then had taken heed of the “winds of change” speech by Harold Macmillan on February 20 1960.   

The speech resonated around the world. “The wind of change is blowing through this continent.  Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.” Macmillan was giving a warning to the resident administrators of the African colonies.

The church shows that it was ahead of those who were in charge of the colonies by handing over the leadership of the church to local leadership. Rev Ndhlela was appointed to superintend the local church in 1965, just five years after the call. Indeed, the writing was on the wall and it could not be ignored any longer. Its sister church, the United Methodist Church appointed Bishop Abel Muzorewa as its first black bishop in 1968.  Bishop Jonasi Shiri became the first Evangelical Lutheran Church bishop in Rhodesia in 1975.

The missionaries planted churches in this country. At some point all the denominations banned local traditional instruments from churches. Members were expected to just sing.  The fear was that since these were used in African traditional worship, members would be attracted back to their religion, which was seen as heathen.

Things changed gradually when the missionary churches started one by one to allow the use of instruments. One can only say it was God himself who brought these back.  David says, “Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.  For the Lord takes pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” (Psalm 149: 3)

Dance was also forbidden. Worshippers were required to sing without much movement. Worship atmosphere had to be sombre. On the other hand, Africans found that to be very prohibitive. 

Most of our cultural practices were considered evil, but in secret the Africans made their way to these gatherings. During the day they would behave saintly.  This created a Christian who was always hiding many things from the missionary.

Earlier on missionaries had devised a form which every black aspiring pastor/minister was required to fill in upon entering ministry.  The form required that he would pledge that he would not allow his daughter to be married through the payment of lobola. It was considered as selling them.  These black candidates exchanged notes with their kith and kin in different denominations and discovered that the missionaries had agreed on the use of the form across the board.

The black candidates conspired to sign the forms but agreed en-block to do the right thing according to their culture. In most of their cultures, fathers of girls who were getting married did not preside over the marriage of their daughters.  It is either the young brothers or elder brother who were in charge.  Upon being asked whether they had received lobola, they would emphatically say no.  Such was the relationship between the superiors and their juniors.

New converts were discouraged from involving themselves in rituals of death and mourning.  The first ritual was that of chenura/ndongamabwe or doro remvura. This is a ritual done a month after a relative has died.  Relatives and friends would come back to reminisce with those who had lost a relative.  They brewed some beer and drank with neighbours in commemoration of the departed.  The other ritual was kurova guva.  This is a ritual done after a year of one’s departure.

Christians found it very difficult to abandon these rituals completely. The best they could do was to go and attend these rituals in private. The members were not satisfied by what they were doing.  gradually, the two ceremonies changed from being radically traditional to a kind of compromise. The idea behind the laity was that they wanted their ministers/pastors to attend these ceremonies or to even preside over them.

To cut a long story short, these ceremonies/rituals have been renamed nyaradzo — remembrance and unveiling of tombstone respectively. As a result of this, ministers now come and grace these occasions and preside over them.  This has been a win-win situation. Most of these gatherings discourage the brewing of beer and the traditional requirements have been abandoned.  They are now Christian services with a lot of preaching and testimonies around them.

The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has every reason to celebrate its autonomous status.  It has indigenised itself fully and can now worship in truth and in spirit.  Much more can be done, though.

Those with ears, let them hear!

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