Nigerian 'prophet' rattles Zanu-PF

Charismatic pastor TB Joshua 'cures' parishioners of Aids at his church in Lagos, Nigeria. (Jacob Silberberg, AP)

Charismatic pastor TB Joshua 'cures' parishioners of Aids at his church in Lagos, Nigeria. (Jacob Silberberg, AP)

A tug-of-war has erupted between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change over a proposed visit to Zimbabwe by famed Nigerian prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua for a “national day of prayer” on May 25.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has found ready support in mounting resistance to Joshua’s visit from the country’s largest and most influential religious body, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe.

The fellowship brings together more than 100 churches in Zimbabwe and said it was wary of Joshua’s intentions. Its president, Goodwill Shana, said: “We think it is important to get into the country people who can help the country to move forward and not people who are judgmental … We don’t want judgmental teachings and that is why we don’t subscribe to his [Joshua’s] teachings.”

The MDC, which is understood to have invited Joshua, now appears isolated because Zanu-PF has used the occasion of his visit to drum up support from local charismatic churches.

Political observers say the new alliance between Zanu-PF and the fellowship will result in the party emerging stronger.
It has been on a concerted drive to lobby for allies in the charismatic church beyond the traditional core of support it enjoys from the Apostolic and Anglican churches, the latter of which is led by renegade bishop Nolbert Kunonga.

Political hegemony
In September last year the Mail & Guardian broke the story of a Zanu-PF plan to lean on priests and use the pulpit’s pulling power to canvass votes for Mugabe.

Underlying the animosity over Joshua’s visit is Zanu-PF’s interest in preserving its political hegemony. Zanu-PF hawks view the Nigerian preacher as being involved in the business of “anointing” new leaders because he prophesied the victory of Ghanaian President John Atta Mills in the country’s 2009 run-off election, the rise to power of Joyce Banda as Malawi’s new president after the sudden death of Bingu wa Mutharika last month and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat to François Hollande.

Fearful that Joshua may use his visit to “anoint” archrival Morgan Tsvangirai, who visited the pastor at his Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, in September 2010, Zanu-PF hardliners are refusing to take any chances.

Joshua recently told his congregation that he was headed to a “troubled Southern African nation”, an announcement that sent the rumour mill into overdrive as speculation rose that he was coming to Zimbabwe.

But Zimbabwe immigration officials this week denied that they had received a visa application from Joshua’s office. The visit now looks increasingly in doubt because it takes immigration officials at least seven days to process a visa application.

Joshua’s visit
It will be a huge blow to ordinary Zimbabweans who have been looking forward to the visit.

The MDC-linked home affairs co-minister, Theresa Makone, said she did not yet have any details on the status of Joshua’s visit.

Unable to afford the trip to Lagos, ordinary Zimbabweans have been following Joshua on free-to-air satellite broadcaster Emmanuel TV, on which they have been captivated by his prophecies, miracle healings and use of anointed water.

Laurence Sithole (24), a university student, said: “I welcome the visit by the man of God, but am deeply grieved by how he has been vilified by politicians and the media.”

Anastasia Moyo (49) said: “I strongly object to efforts to block his coming to Zimbabwe because many of those that oppose him are well able to fly to Nigeria to consult him or be part of his congregation. I don’t think it’s a solution to block him in fear of his prophecies, because he can still make prophecies about Zimbabwe while in Nigeria.”

Several top-ranking Zanu-PF officials, such as Kembo Mohadi and Oppah Muchinguri, have attended services at Joshua’s church and Manicaland governor Christopher Mushowe was spotted in its congregation on Sunday.

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.   Read more from Ray Ndlovu

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