Religious tourism returns to Defe Dopota

09 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
Religious tourism returns to Defe Dopota ZCC congregation at the church’s 46th anniversary of the death of its founder Bishop Samuel Mutendi at Defe Dopota in Gokwe.

The Herald

Patrick Chitumba-Midlands Bureau Chief

SITUATED to the south west of Gokwe Centre and bordering Chirisa Game Park, Defe Dopota has become synonymous with the month of August with the arrival of pilgrims commemorating the death of ZCC founder Reverend Samuel Mutendi in 1976.

Every year in August, the usually laid back area rises like a phoenix and last Sunday people came from near and far.

Pilgrims from Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Eswatini and Angola were represented.

Even President Mnangagwa, who also found himself at Defe Dopota after being invited as the guest of honour, was impressed by the sea of blue, white, green, red and khaki colours of smartly dressed ZCC pilgrims gathered at the shrine for their annual pilgrimage.

As if to compensate for the last two years when the ZCC pilgrims failed to gather due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, more than 100 000 pilgrims thronged the shrine on Sunday.

President Mnangagwa was accompanied by First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa, Vice-President Costantino Chiwenga and his wife Mrs Miniyothabo Chiwenga, among other senior Government officials. 

During his speech as guest of honour, President Mnangagwa even expressed his amazement at the crowds before him.

“There are many people gathered here today, in any direction I turn, I can’t even see where the crowd ends. Several countries are represented here such as Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, the kingdom of Eswatini and Angola. I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ,” he said amid thunderous ululations and whistling from the church members.

Vice President Chiwenga, who is also Minister of Health and Child Care, noted that the multitudes of church members were so huge that it had made sense for Government to ban public gatherings in the past two years due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1913, the church faced several challenges in its early years of conception, particularly from the colonial establishment, which burnt a number of their schools because they were spreading “demonic spirituality”.

Over the past 46 years, every year July 20 has been commemorated by ZCC members as a very special day on the church’s calendar as the day that the founder Reverend Samuel Mutendi died at Defe Dopota in Gokwe South and was buried on July 24 in 1976. 

For many years ZCC had been commemorating the death of Reverend Mutendi on July 20 at Defe Dopota, but of late the church has moved the ceremony close to the Heroes Day and Defence Forces Day commemorations in August in order to accommodate workers and students as they take advantage of the long weekend.

ZCC members have for decades travelled from all over the country, southern Africa and overseas to Defe Dopota annually for a special annual gathering at the shrine. 

After branching left from the Gokwe Centre-Chiteketa highway, a motorist drives for about 15km on a smooth dust road to the Defe shrine. 

The dust road is well-maintained to an extent that the only noticeable difference with a motorist driving on the tarred road is the cloud of dust that whirls up as one drives on the smooth surface making it easy for church members even those with small vehicles to make it to the shrine.

Hundreds of buses and light motor vehicles of all shapes and sizes thronged Defe Dopota from all corners of the country and region last week.

The numbers swelled on Sunday which was a special Sunday for the church which was graced by President Mnangagwa.

Pedestrians from all over the country arrived earlier than the motorists and there was a carnival atmosphere at the shrine.

There were some members who were accommodated in church lodges and guest houses, others slept in their cars while thousands pitched tents in and around the shrine.

This annual event has grown so much that some who attend are curious visitors and traders who annually enjoy brisk business from pilgrims. 

Music was provided by ZCC Dopota brass band and choral groups from parishes around the country and region. 

ZCC leader Bishop Dr Nehemiah Mutendi said the church is growing in leaps and bounds each year.

Defe shall forever remain one of the most popular Zionist religious heritage and pilgrimage destinations in this country and region.

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