A fortnight ago, then Acting President Phelekezela Mphoko called for a national week of prayer for rains. As it turned out, none of the usual big names in the church communion, or let’s say industry, took up the matter: the likes of Sebastian Bakare, Goodwills Shana, Tavonga Vutabwashe, Tudor Bismark, Fidelis Mukonori, etc, let alone these other celebrity pastors.
The most prominent of people who rallied behind the call was Shingi Munyeza who many people rather know as a businessman – perhaps more identifiable with the African Sun Limited Group ofHhotels – than as a minister of religion.
Munyeza leads, as president, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and is senior pastor at Faith Ministries.
Whether by dint of the intercession of Munyeza and few other believers, or by sheer coincidence, the country received rains in the same week that prayers were called and conducted.
We are sure Munyeza and others who purposely partook of the national prayer must have felt good – but the Christians in them should have been good enough to teach them not to brag about it.
In fact they should not – not least because we are not safely out of drought – as the power of such miracles, as it were resides with God.
But not everyone is happy, apparently – and Shingi Munyeza may just have committed his greatest crime!
That is, if a seemingly unprovoked, unconscionable, callous and tendentious attack on his person as businessman and minister of religion by a local paper is anything to go by.
The writer of this column does not know Shingi Munyeza personally, and cannot be trusted to hold any brief for him.
The little he is known to the writer is by way of his media appearances and, lately, his own very sober sermons on one of the radio stations, a programme which is scarcely known maybe because for its lack of the now all too common fury and religious propaganda meant to win converts for commercial activities disguised as church.
But this we may return to shortly.
Here is, by the way, the surprisingly offensive charge sheet according to one daily: “Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe president and Faith Ministries senior pastor Shingi Munyeza has raised eyebrows after the shrewd businessman and man of the cloth invested in beer outlets and betting shops. Munyeza has been running News Café — an upmarket and elegant bar — in Harare’s posh suburb of Borrowdale and another one in the capital’s Avenue areas. He is also a shareholder in gambling firm Mega Bet.
“Although the former African Sun Limited chief executive’s empire is operating legally and creating employment in a country where the unemployment rate is estimated over 80 percent, critics say it is immoral for a cleric to preach righteousness during the day and promote debauchery, heresy, fornication and drunkenness at night.”
Obviously, Munyeza was taken aback.
He is quoted as responding: “When I was running a lot of hotels under African Sun, you guys did not write that I was operating brothels, but now that I have my own things you want to write bad about me. Is what I am doing illegal?”
It goes back to the prayer rains, perhaps!
It will be noteworthy to know that there has never been a shortage of calls for national prayers and mainly these prayers have been for political causes in particular to aid the waning fortunes of the opposition under various guises, the latest of which is the alleged disappearance, which is controversial, of a journalist-turned-opposition activist called Itai Dzamara.
In fact, the opposition MDC-T dismissed the call for national prayers for rain to avert drought and hunger arguing rather vexatiously that the Government could not make such a plea as it was “Satanic”.
It is not also lost to the discerning reader that Munyeza is a genuinely patriotic businessman who has contributed to the development of this country in its trying times and has even been engaged in a mission to lobby for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe by the West.
Sanctions against Zimbabwe do not only worsen such occurrences as drought but are in and of themselves a calamity and evil against the people of Zimbabwe, which ordinarily every minister of religion should pray against, just as against drought, rather than seek attention over non-issues like a doubtful disappearance of a moronic political individual.
Munyeza is also said to have had a couple of other ventures for the direct benefit of the Zimbabwean polity outside of the country.
Now this should be applauded for its practicality: a churchman who prays for his country and actually does something on the ground is a whole worthier citizen and man of God.
If people spared us the moralising about beer and betting shops, Munyeza would be applauded for his work.
Anyway, those now seeking to raise their hands to cast a stone at Munyeza are so dirty and given to receiving far dirtier and evil money for purposes that are driven by real Satanic govern- ments.
The irony is clear that Munyeza stands accused of running a business for which he never received criticism while at the helm of an international group.
Ordinarily, he should be applauded for bringing expression to popular struggles of black ownership of business and creating wealth and employment at a time the country is facing massive economic challenges, which other pastors should be seized with in prayer and deed.
Some other pastors – the celebrity pastors alluded to above – are content with robbing their flock and living lavish lifestyles synonymous with Hollywood stars and have invested in mansions and cars and bodyguards, without any meaningful economic contribution to the country.
They have invested in vanity.
Souls like Munyeza have invested in the growing industry of tourism and, believe it or not, some people may only have seen News Café in South Africa, where the franchise began in 1995.
Munyeza has brought it home.
He must be applauded for it rather than be left to the mercy of some Pharisees who have political or institutional bones to chew with him.
Perhaps he should also just pray for these personal and national detractors.