The Discourse Less Discussed: Spirituality and Health Issues in Zimbabwe.

Author:Muzingili, Taruvinga


The role of prophets in providing health services is vexing, contentious and debatable in literature because of diverging perceptions towards the phenomenon of spirituality (Chitando et al. 2013; Tamirepi, 2013). The prophetic revivalism and resurgence as a package of spirituality has become a global contemporary issue which need much attention especially in relation to people's health. In Zimbabwe, the prominent rise of prophets such as Uebert Engel, Walter Magaya and Emmanuel Makandiwa on Pentecostal scene has seen spiritual healing and deliverance of sickness as a common debate. Regionally and globally, the majority of people have been found to have explicit religious beliefs and practices (Chitando and Biri, 2016; Mckernan, 2005). Religion may play diverging roles in social life but many people around the world still regard their spiritual faith to be of central importance in their lives (Mabvurira and Mtetwa, 2013; Maguranyanga, 2011; Manyonganise, 2015). The presence of prophets on the religious landscape has heightened the role of prophecy on healing and deliverance. Prophecy, barring its definitional elusiveness, is considered to be a great gift from God which enables the prophet to speak forth or declare the divine will, to interpret the purpose of God, or to make known in a way the truth of God designed to influence people (Chitando et al. 2013). Omenyo (2014 cited in Chitando and Biri, 2016) observes that prophetic emergence in most parts of Africa occurred under conditions of economic, political and social adversity, which were accompanied by economic reforms, low wages and quality of life, the absence of social services, and the withdrawals of the welfare frontiers of the state. Like its precursors, one of the great appeals of prophetic movement in Zimbabwe is its ability to respond to the current existential and pragmatic life needs of the people including health problems. In spite of the various efforts made to discourage people of spiritual healing because of the problems associated with it (Asamaoh-Gyadu, 2015; Biri, 2013; Gombarume, 2016); people are still flocking to those prophets in search of spiritual help.

The aspect of spirituality itself is questionable for lacking scientific rigour (Tamirepi, 2013), and some group of people tend to doubt its existence and treat it with contempt. Since the spiritual services are commonly accepted on self-conviction (Roby and Maistry, 2010); the polarisation of ontological and epistemological constructs regarding spirituality may be based on what Renne Descrates (1596-1650) called 'methodic doubt'. This implies that one would not accept something as true if it was not manifestly clear and distinct to him. Across methodical discrepancies in health dialogue, prophetic message is interpreted to be dogmatic and myopic since their message blurs the rational inquiry on the cusses and treatment of diseases. Perhaps, it is daunting to adopt scientific perspectives in order to professionalise and legitimise spirituality and health, and to align them with the prevailing medical models.

Due to these differences, Roby and Maistry (2010) argue that spirituality is biological, psychological, socially evolutional and neurophysiologic where assailable evidence consistent with scientific enquiry cannot be established. While these debates rage on, many scholars (Biri, 2013; Gombarume, 2016; Zimunya & Gwara, 2013) argue that spirituality has shown interconnectedness with individual health and is seen as holistic in nature. In some circles, prophets are being considered as white collar business today (Chitando et al. 2013), yet their role in healing is continuously gaining unique ascendency in countries like Zimbabwe. In their transpersonal existence, individuals construct their own reality according to the knowledge which they have (Morales et al. 2010), and this has an implication on people's choices in solving their health misfortunes. However, the emphasis on healing and deliverance is one major factor that pulls large crowds to the expanding prophetic movement in Zimbabwe and beyond (Biri, 2013; Chitando, 2016). Therefore, the issue of spiritual healing is indispensable regardless to the fact that prophetic healing is accepted with conjecture among some critics.

The incessant demand of spiritual healing is tied to continuous mushrooming of churches across the world, let alone in Zimbabwe under the catchphrase 'Man of God'. This paper argues that, no matter how contentious the issue is; this interpretive topic is incessantly evolving and requires attention in several health forums. Several scholars (Chitando and Biri, 2016; Shoko, 2015; Zimunya and Gwara, 2013) argue that the marketability of prophets has been influenced by their ability to heal and perform extraordinary miracles. To this effect, the interrogation of spirituality in relation to individual health is imperative. Although some Zimbabwean scholars have attempted to deliberate the issue of health and spirituality (Gombarume, 2016; Mabvurira and Nyanguru, 2013; Tamirepi, 2013); the role of prophets in health sector remains unappreciated in both academic and public forums. As operationally stated by World Health Organisation (WHO) (1946 cited in Brook, 2017), the definition of health encompasses wellbeing and the consideration of culturally sensitive approaches to healthcare as well as indigenous and alternative forms of healing as legitimate forms of treatment. It seems, therefore, that the body, mind, and spirit are connected. Spiritual perspectives and practices can provide a context wherein anxieties about physical and mental functioning may be faced, felt, and understood (David et al, 2009). In Zimbabwe, religious institutions are becoming prominent in the provision of social support mechanisms and practices that encourage healthy behaviours, as well as a personal sense of meaning. While the prophets are being criticised for placating and soothing on prosperity in their gospel, their spiritual health services through series of unprecedented miracles is becoming one of the health pathways in Zimbabwe. This paper argues that the complexity and subjectivity of this speculatively prophetic topic requires further contextual analysis in Zimbabwe to further substantiate existing health pathways. And with the burgeoning discourse around spirituality in Zimbabwe (Chitando & Biri, 2016, Tamirepi, 2013), only a few scholars have delineated its relatedness to health issues (Gombarume, 2016). The dearth of literature in academia and slow inclusion of spirituality particularly on health services provided by apostolic prophets in major health forums was a major concern for this study.

This paper also tries to narrow the wide chasm between spirituality a identifying the synergistic themes between spirituality and prophetic work in Zimbabwe. This paper sought to address the gap by investigating the types of spiritual health services provided by apostolic prophets and challenges arising from these services in rural areas of Zimbabwe. The objectives of the study included to identify spiritual services provided by local prophets in the context of health, and to establish problems associated with spiritual health services provided by prophets. Hence, this work provides an introduction to important conceptual issues, a look at spirituality and theory of existentialism, the research methodology implemented with ffindings and discussions, a review of the types of spiritual health services, the challenges associated with spiritual health services, a conclusion and recommendations.

Conceptual Issues

The literature is coloured by a myriad of definitions of religion and spirituality (Bhagwan, 2010). Defining a prophet in any field of study remains a daunting task for everyone. Prophecy is understood differently; it is a multi-faceted term and to some does not simply mean fore-telling events or circumstances (Chitando and Biri, 2016). The situation is even aggravated by the fact that, among religious people, there is no unanimity on the term. Biblically, prophets should often possess both a teaching and revelatory role, serving as intermediary with humanity and declaring God's truth on contemporary issues while also revealing details about the future. Among famous biblical prophets, Jeremiah and Isaiah's ministry, touched on both the present and the future, preached audaciously against the corruption of his day and delivered grand visions of the future of Israel (Gombarume, 2016). The intricate part of defining the term is that prophets have the task of faithfully speaking God's Word to the people, of which this covert concept cannot be demonstrated explicitly. Biri (2015) argues that the prophets only heal the spiritual aspect of human existence and there is no evidence to suggest that some diseases are healed by them. In the same context, Magireta (2015) believes that in today' society, true prophets are not easy to find and the current ones are economically notorious persons who performs healing and deliverance for their economic impetus. However, Chitando and Biri (2016) argue that people in Zimbabwe and beyond use spiritual services provided by prophets. This paper interrogates the services of apostolic prophets from Johane Masowe. Gombarume (2016) operationalised Apostolic prophets as those from a blend of African traditional religion and Christianity with Old Testament being prominent. Johanne Masowe sect church was formed in 1931 by a Zimbabwean founder (Shonhiwa Masedza) with the idea of blending the African Traditional religion and Christianity and relies mainly on the doctrine of the Old Testament. All practices done in this church is said to be Holy Spirit inspired and they rarely refer to biblical scriptures. Although this act of not referring to the bible is a controversy in itself; this paper argues that the role of religious personnel in health is lived and cannot be discussed with...

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