Some street corners in Harare’s CBD, that used to be inhabited by musicians and street performers in the past, are now dominated by street preachers especially during tea breaks, at lunchtime and during peak hours. During these times pockets of people can be seen milling about and at times huge crowds can be seen gathering on the street corners to listen to the speakers.
Zvikomborero Manyonga said that street preachers are flourishing because life has become more difficult in Zimbabwe and many people are turning to religion for support. He also attributed their popularity to the emergence of the Pentecostal denominations which are in actively searching for converts. “It is because of the prevailing economic hardships that people have moved from a scenario where they have to pay for entertainment and now want to get something meaningful from an event,” said one Harare resident Wayne Dzvokora concerning this matter.
Apostle Maxwell John, an evangelist who operates at First Street and Ruzende Street, said that the reason street preaching has become so popular is that churches have realised that there are many people who are in need of solace and hope. They have adopted a new policy to bring people to the church through preaching to them on the streets. Thereafter they give their street followers directions to their churches where alleged miracles take place. He stated that evangelists dominate this sector both on the busy streets and in the churches. Prophet T. Nharo, of Free Life Assurance Ministries International, who also preaches along First Street, concurred with Apostle John and said that this phenomenon owes much to a hunger for purpose and meaning.
Apostle John also reiterated the fact that street preaching is thriving because of the support they are getting from local authorities and law enforcement agents because without them their activities would not be allowed. Gatherings like these are often used by pick-pockets and thieves to steal from unwary audiences. He urged other preachers to seek permission from the ZRP and the Metropolitan Police to curb criminal activities during gatherings. Gatherings are considered illegal in the streets of Harare because they hamper free movement on the pavements and are considered noisy as some of the preachers use megaphones to deliver their messages. Those who are found guilty of these offences can be charged with being in violation of City by-laws, revealed a source from the City Council. The City of Harare could not furnish Harare News with the relevant by-laws at the time of going to print.
Photo: Luckie Aaroni