Lovemore Meya Features Writer
Fake prophets and quacks are capitalising on the tough economic conditions to dupe people of their hard-earned money by devising various unorthodox means to lure crowds.
Across Zimbabwe, there is a disturbing trend of false prophets who are using new styles to lure innocent people into their fold.
During ministration, reports are awash of fake prophets and their visions of phone numbers, bank details and ladies underwear, get rich quickly schemes and promises of good health, good living and marriages.
Everywhere and everyday, people are falling victim to ‘revival crusades’ with various tags such as “From sorrow to joy,” “Prophecy that will return all your money which was taken by the devil,” and a host of other polished and make-believe schemes.
False preachers are luring people into their web and looting thousands of dollars from the poor through polishing their business under the guise of preaching.
They are looting from innocent men and women in the name of curing diabetes, cancer, HIV and Aids, evil spirits, goblins, marriage and other things.
Sometimes innocent women get so twisted by these people that they even have to sacrifice their chastity or are raped and some of them ruin their marriages, fall pregnant and lose cash after being continuously blackmailed by these healers.
Some even give miracle water and whole range of stones and herbal medicines as a guarantee to riches, fame, marriage, good life and everything the heart can yearn for.
Just to show the gravity of the issue in Zimbabwe, the Chitungwiza magistrate court alone handled more than 15 cases involving self-styled prophets from various religious groupings since last year.
The false prophets were convicted for various crimes though some escaped the long arm of the law.
Over 40 faith and traditional healers were de-registered by Traditional Medical Practitioners Council for improper and disgraceful conduct since 2010.
The TMPC was formed under the Traditional Medical Practitioners Act operating within the Ministry of Health and Child Care and was established in 1981 having over 3400 practising members on its register.
“Beware of prophecies and false prophets.
“Some will tell you even your bank details and your phone numbers and how much you have in your pockets. But, I say to you, beware of false prophets, so that it will be well with you,” says a Harare pastor from an evangelical church in the city centre.
“Quacks are playing with the lives of people and the Government and all concerned need to take action against these quacks. If we don’t take any action against these people, mob violence against them will result.”
Even though false prophets have always existed since time immemorial, some social analysts blame current economic hardships for the sudden upsurge in the number of false prophets being arrested for various offences.
“Making money is one of the major factors leading to the rise in the numbers of these people because they play on the psychology of unsuspecting citizens,” says Prof Claude Mararike, a University of Zimbabwe sociologist.
“When people face social problems they look for solutions. The problems could be marital, job-related or financial and they are bound to get to these people for help.”
False prophets, he says, are driven into the game mainly to get money and all sorts of material gains by claiming to use visions, the Holy Spirit and other divine powers.
“Status on its own is another pushing factor since prophets or traditional healers occupy a fairly high status in the society they are respected or even they are feared.
“People consult them and give them a higher level of status leading to someone to claim that he or she is a prophet to acquire that status,” says Prof Mararike.
Women who are eager to get married or men who want more women especially men are often enticed by false prophets who claim they can solve a certain problem which sometimes they cannot.
Professor Mararike says for people to stay out of trouble they should just avoid them (false prophets) or seek solutions from bona fide people who are known to provide such a solutions.
“As Africans, there are certain illness we classify as abnormal and believe cannot be handled through orthodox western medicines but we consult registered traditional medicals practitioners,” he says.
“People should consult them as to who can give them the best attention to their problems. Going to people who claim to heal certain ailments without proof or to those unregistered is risky”.
He adds: “There are those who will tell you impossible things like for example, they will tell you that for your ailment to go, you have to open your legs. That becomes preposterous and such things are not in the parameters of treating people.
“Even those who tell you things that are unheard in order for this to happen such as we need parts of human flesh . . . these are dangerous people.”
False prophets are not the only ones. Traditional and spiritual healers such as the tsikamutandas have for many decades looted livestock from poor villagers in the pretext of practising exorcism.
Jolted by rising complaints of livestock losses, many traditional chiefs have banned the tsikamuntandas from practising their trade.
But the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association says all registered members undergo training and in cases of apostolic groups have a place called “Crawa”, erected to indicate that they are certified by their bishops.
Traditionalist and leader of the Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association (ZNPA) Mr Friday Chisanyu says people can simply define true prophets from a false one through seeing good or bad practice.
“When we visit their areas, we teach them the law on how to conduct their prophetic healings.
“ After that the law makes it clear that they should not manipulate their registration to cheat people,” he says.
In 2013, he says, about 200 prophets registered with this organisation.
“We get help from village heads, local chiefs and community elders to help us vet prophets and to be sure of who we are dealing with,” Mr Chisanyu says.
“People in their vicinities, can help us deal with false prophets since they are the ones who associate with them. In cases of malpractice, we apply what is stipulated in the law under the Traditional Medical Practitioners Act administered by the Ministry of Health.”
The Act states that it is a crime for one to operate without a licence and if such a person is tried and found guilty he or she could be sentenced to two years in prison or less.
“We deploy our inspectors to identify false prophets with the help of the police who then arrest them,” says Mr Chisanyu.
Zinatha last carried out a census of traditional healers between 1985 and 1986.
At the time it was estimated that there were about 40 000 traditional healers in the country.
Mr George Kandiyero says plans are afoot to update the register.
“People should never fall prey to these marauding fake healers and we urge them to approach our offices dotted around the country’s 10 provinces to get help.
“If people are going through challenges in identifying real healers they should not hesitate approach our offices.
People who may want to consult traditional healers pay a small fee to have a prophet checked in the Zinatha data base.
“If one gets caught duping people the organisation recommends the courts to deal with such dubious characters since the Act has clear provisions to punish such individuals,” he says.
Those found guilty are often asked to pay a fine, are sacked or delisted from the register.
According to the World Health Organisation, traditional healer services refer to the application of knowledge, skills, and practices based on the experiences indigenous to different cultures.
These services are directed towards the maintenance of health, as well as the prevention, diagnosis, and improvement of physical and mental well-being. Populations throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America use traditional medicine to help meet primary health care needs.
In Africa, up to 80 percent of the population uses traditional medicine to help meet health care needs. In China, traditional medicine accounts for about 40 percent of all health care delivered.
The WHO notes that traditional medicines are especially significant in developing countries because they are more accessible and affordable.
Numerous challenges still haunt the successful integration of traditional medicines and conventional medicines. But false prophets stick out as one of the major problems.
And Learnmore Zuze, a motivational writer, notes in his article; “Today’s prophet versus the Biblical prophet,” – “The Bible instructs us not to believe every spirit but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone into the world.”(1 John 4:1).
Testing is a major hurdle in today’s highly urbanised settings.