Religion is the opium of the people, German philosopher and economist Karl Marx wrote during his time.
The quotation rings so true in Zimbabwe where hard-pressed citizens are turning to a different type of religion than the one Marx knew back then.
Prosperity gospel under the so-called self-styled prophets has become the order of the day and to some restive Zimbabweans, a source of hope.
Walking in the streets in Zimbabwe, the talk everywhere is on self-styled prophets and how they are attracting hundreds of thousands of people who are flocking to their places of worship for assistance on their day to day problems.
Many have left their traditional churches seeking to improve their lives through the touch of self-styled prophets.
Hundreds of thousands of people are now flocking to churches fronted by prophets like Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya. Most of them say they are seeking assistance from the prophets on their economic and family problems.
DRIFTING TOWARDS NIGERIAN SCENARIO
Those in the know say Zimbabwe is slowly drifting into the league of Nigeria as in every location, city or town, there is now a self-styled prophet whom hundreds if not thousands turn to daily for some form of assistance.
One of the prophets, Emmanuel Mwale of Unity Apostolic Church International, claims he is receiving thousands of people from all parts of the country who are coming with an assortment of their problems.
Mwale says most of those coming to him are seeking riches or assistance after losing their jobs.
Chitungwiza resident, Samuel Maunganidze, says the reason why most people are visiting the prophets is because the economy has made it very difficult for the majority of them to financially sustain their day to day lives. And they think the prophets can provide a quick fix.
Another Chitungwiza resident, Muneyi Murombedzi, says hospital bills have also gone far beyond the reach of many to the extent that they have found solace in the prophets, who although they charge, are a bit cheaper.
There is now less and less talk about traditional healers or n’angas as these have been relegated to the background.
GETTING RICH AND EMPLOYMENT
Some of the Zimbabweans have come out in the open on how they managed to acquire wealth while others have testified on how their long suffering finally came to an end after visiting one of these prophets.
After losing her job on a three-month notice, Sithembile Muza, says she found another job after visiting one of the prophets.
What, however, is disturbing is the manner in which some of the prophets are executing their duties with reports of sexual abuse of women becoming the order of the day.
There have been increased cases of prophets raping their followers while reports have been awash on how some of these prophets have asked women to undress before receiving assistance.
Theses, says, Murombedzi, are not men from God but fake prophets.
Maunganidze says this is betraying the same people that the prophets are supposed to serve saying the law should take its course.
Another section of the community is also of the opinion that these prophets have turned religion into business as they are selling the so-called anointing oil they dish out at a premium.
The oil costs between $5 and $10 per small bottle, a situation Maunganidze says is tantamount to commercializing religion.
Mwale, however, says their anointing oil is for free and is for everyone who needs it.
But there is a section of society which does not believe in these prophets. They argue that they will join the great trek only when someone they know has been helped – only then, like Thomas in the Bible – will they believe.
So far, they say, they haven’t seen even one.