By Wisdom Mumera.
Harare, Zimbabwe. (news Of The South) – Correspond-Tawanda Chikuruzama is today a proud landlord of a two roomed house that stares over the High-Glen Road from a lofty perch of rock and soil adjacent Kuwadzana suburb.
The house is a hasty composite of hurriedly burnt bricks, recycled metal doorframes and a zinc roofing that plays rain louder than the drought stricken spittle actually is.
With his wife and two children, one a suckling baby born this past January, Chikuruzama is already thinking of a stable future.
His acquisition of shelter has allowed him to spare more money that would previously have been gobbled by rentals.
“Rent money is painful but you cannot do anything as long as you are at somebody’s house. You just have to pay. This time I’m my own landlord. I don’t have rentals to pay. No City Council. No water bills. No electricity bills”, he smiles squinting at the passing vehicles speeding along High-Glen road.
His future may have taken a lighter shade but a certain grouping of people are not seeing much light in these kind of developments.
The Vapositori sects have been known to utilize mountains as places of worship since time immemorial. This has meant they have never gotten to build churches as Pentecostal churches usually do.
Ironically less than a kilometre from this mountain Pentecostal churches have already bought sites to build churches in a new residential place being cleared in Cold Comfort.
The Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA) already has a standing structure with gaping hole for windows, asbestos roofed and durawalled.
While Pentecostal churches are racing each other for space to buy for church building the Vapositori have previously sat back in the comfort that no one would squeeze them out of their high niches in the mountains.
And no one did over the past years.
No one questioned their utilitarian and disciplined religious patterns that only required the barest of comfort for places of worship. For many of them a mere mountain was enough and trees to sit under were a luxury that could be done without.
No one turned much attention to their church sites until recently when land barons have begun taking up swathes of land and resell them to desperate home seekers.
According to the Harare City Council, the capital city has a housing backlog of over 500 000 nearly half of the nation’s deficit of 1, 25 million.
This has resulted in the gradual but effective takeover of many areas in the mountains at which the Vapositori sects used to conduct their services.
The mountain adjacent Kuwadzana along High-Glen road is one such typical place at which the complete usurpation of the Vapositori has taken place.
The many splinter groups that used to conduct their services in the mountain where first pushed back to one side by the encroaching tide of Dawn View houses, a middle density suburb that overlooks Bulawayo Road.
Instead of discerning anything in this and coming up with revolutionary methods the sects simply retreated back to the top of the mountain.
However from the other side has come up the illegal landlords of Chikuruzama’s type who have fallen upon the mountain with aplomb and are erecting two roomed houses flaring all over.
Caught in-between the Vapositori sects have begun disappearing from the mountain.
Jeremiah Njira is a member of one of the displaced sects that conducted its services in the mountain for over 6 years.
“We have had our services in this mountain since 2010 and never thought of building anything since it’s our custom to have services in the open under trees”.
“We had dug and built a toilet. It was our only building in that mountain”.
“However these illegal settlers started getting closer and closer to our place of worship and we have seen it prudent that we shift away from the mountain since the whole of it seems about to be a residential location”, he explains from their new church site.
Their new site is adjacent OK shops in Kuwadzana 2 and overlooks a host of carnal places lacking moral rectitude. There is a Sports Betting Shop, five bars and two nightclubs.
Asked if it’s not their lack of foresight in preparing for such eventualities Njira is adamant for their church policy.
“We have our beliefs and just because they are facing challenges doesn’t mean we have to discard them. We shall always find ways to deal with such problems”, he says.
“Those that feel God needs a house can go ahead and built, we shall continue in our own ways”, he states confidently.
Despite the insistence of the Vapositori their prospects going into the future don’t look great. The situation seems to be forcing them into a corner from which they will need to reinvent the wheel of their beliefs or they will be lost in the turn of development.
Some of them have seen such wisdom.
A Johane Masowe Echishanu sect with members who live in the Central Business District have resorted to hiring a room at Mass Media House, where New Ziana is located, as a place of worship.
This they have done instead of seeking a nearby mountain like the Kopje as the usual Vapositori mind may work.
They conduct services on Sunday, accompanied with much dancing that reverberates throught the rickety building sounding and seeming so alien in these conditions.
“It’s a matter of convenience and has nothing to do with God needing shelter or what. Many of our members live here in the CBD thus it was the logical thing to do”, says Samuel Chouviri a member of this seemingly forward looking congregation.
In this new set-up members of this sect have managed to compartmentalize their beliefs to live side-by side with the new environment that is modern lifestyle and its pressures.
For Chikuruzama, an atheist, it’s a weak argument that the illegal settlers have displaced churches.
“City Council allocates areas for church building and they should go and conduct services there not here. Is it logical that we live in the open so that someone can have a church service on Saturday or Friday here”, his rhetoric questions hangs in the air.
It waits for the many displaced Vapositori to answer it either with a negative continuation of fighting for sites with illegal settlers or a positive acquiescence that will see them erecting structures in proper places.
The inverted side of the argument however places the blame on the illegal settlers who themselves are erecting houses on undesignated lands.
The catch 22 situation however has illegal settlers winning at the moment.
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