By Tererai Karimakwenda
08 January 2013
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has landed in the headlines over comments that appear to mock the so-called prosperity gospel preachers, after he challenged two popular prophets to produce the billions of dollars that the country needs to settle its debts and pay for the referendum expected this year.
Biti’s comments came after it had been reported that Prophet Uebert Angel of the Spirit Embassy church gave “miracle money” to his followers at a recent “miracle night crusade” in Botswana and a “crossover night” at Harare City Sports Centre. Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International Church is also known to make similar claims.
The Minister is quoted as saying that he respects these “men of God” because of the “miracles they are performing”. But he allegedly insisted that he had no knowledge of “miracle money” ever happening and could therefore not comment on “hearsay and speculation”.
Biti added: “However, on a lighter note, I want to tell these men of God that we have US$10.1 billion external debt and US$260 million local arrears. We also need US$200 million for the referendum. So if they are printing real money, I would be grateful if they can deposit it in our account so that we can settle these debts.”
Prosperity gospel preachers have become extremely popular in Zimbabwe over the last few years, as they promise not only physical healing but material wealth through faith.
The preachers are obviously raking in the big bucks themselves, living in huge mansions and driving the latest foreign made cars. This gives hope to the masses that come to their services seeking the same.
Doctor Ray Motsi, President of Theological College of Zimbabwe, dismissed the gospel of prosperity being preached by Makandiwa and Angel, saying they are missing the key aspect of what “church” is all about, which is redemption. He said people go to church to seek God and transform themselves from sin.
“The other important thing missing from their gospel is the idea of responsibility. You cannot have riches without responsibility. The Bible itself teaches that people, men, need to work in order to eat. Men need to create wealth by doing something,” Dr Motsi explained.
He stressed that in a country like Zimbabwe where the unemployment rate is over 80 percent, people want “a quick buck” and will go to any church service, if you promise to get it to them.
But in a country in crisis, with so little leadership coming from the country’s political leaders, these prophets are often the only ones offering hope and the possibility of a way forward.