By Mirirai Nsingo recently in Muzarabani
About 300km from Harare into Mashonaland Central lies a dry and remote area called Muzarabani, which has seen both natural and man-made disasters including extreme weather temperatures further impoverishing this community.
Yet this parched piece of existence harbours a rich and distinguished title. This marginalised community happens to be home to the charismatic preacher and founder of the United Family International Church, Prophet Emmanuel Shingirai Makandiwa.
We visited the home of Prophet Makandiwa to trace his roots to try and understand how he has made it in life despite coming from such a marginalised community. One whose majority’s source of livelihood depends on cotton farming before most farmers relinquished the project due to falling market prices worsened by harsh economic conditions.
Back in Mudoka Village, Prophet Makandiwa was just an ordinary young boy born to a cotton farmer, builder and businessman father. Those who grew up with him say he spent most of his time helping his father in the fields when he was not at school. The father was a hard working and no nonsense man. Better known as Shingirai Chirume during his childhood days, the now renowned Prophet Makandiwa was a reserved and calm young boy according to those who grew up with him.
Unlike boys of his age who would spend time playing and herding cattle after school, Prophet Makandiwa spent most of his pastime helping his father in the fields. Muzarabani Ward 8 Councillor, Norman Chizeya who grew up with Prophet Makandiwa and was in the same class with him during his days at Muringazuva Primary School shared the story of the life of the 40-year-old preacher.
“Shingi was a very reserved and down to earth boy. We grew up in the same village in Mudoka under chief Kasekete and we were in the same class from Grade 1 up to 5 before he moved to Waddilove.” He said.
“We used to be very close, he was very quiet at school such that he would not retaliate when provoked. As his friends we would even retaliate on his behalf and sometimes he was too reserved for our liking.”
“He was very good at playing soccer (chikweshe) although he did not have much time to play like some of us because his father was very strict and hard working. Shingi would spend most of his time helping his father in the fields, and the father was a very successful cotton farmer and businessman also,” chronicled Cllr Chizeya.
Prophet Makandiwa and his family were to migrate to another village in Muzarabani known as Chadereka in search of fertile land due to his father’s zeal in cotton farming and therefore the need for greater land as well, according to the Cllr.
“I still remember how they once moved from their village of origin in search of fertile land. He started driving a tractor at a very tender age, which his father had bought for farming. Even when they moved, we still kept in touch although we would not spend much time together as he was always busy in the fields even during school holidays. They later moved back to their village of origin but by then his fame was growing.”
Councillor Chizeya says he was not shocked when Prophet Makandiwa rose to fame noting that all the signs even as he grew up were visible that he was a good preacher.
“He used to go to Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (AFM) and he started preaching when he was very young. He showed very strong pastoral passion as he grew up such that I even moved from my family church, ZAOGA and followed him at AFM.”
“I feel he got a calling at a very tender age because now I remember how he would preach in church and he would share very powerful sermons back then. He started being very popular for his pastoral work and I remember how people would ‘manifest’ as he preached.”
Cllr Chizeya vividly remembers when the interdenominational church was founded around 2009 chronicling how Prophet Makandiwa’s father who was an elder at AFM in Muzarabani approached and informed him that he was moving to Harare to help the prophet on his new work.
“It was in 2009 when his father told me that he was moving to Harare to help the prophet on the work he was about to embark on (interdenominational church). By 2010, UFIC was a face to reckon and I was not even shocked about all the miracles he started performing then.”
“He came in 2010 and launched the UFIC chapter in Muzarabani where he held a massive crusade at Hoya and by then, people started speculating that he was using juju because people are always sceptical when another is hugely successful. To some of us who saw him grow and could trace his pastoral work, his prowess did not come as a shock. He got a calling at a tender age and he followed the calling.”
He adds that while the prophet is now a busy man, he remained humble and is giving back to the community that raised him. “Initially when he started, I would visit him at his Borrowdale home, but as time went on he became very busy and I don’t talk to him that often but I can attest that he has remained the humble man that I grew up with.”
“He managed to build a house for the then chief, funded the construction of additional classrooms at his former primary school and drilled a borehole. He also drilled boreholes for two headmen in our area and put up submersible pumps and solar system at their homes. He has other projects that he intends to work on in Muzarabani.”
One of Prophet Makandiwa’s seniors during his days at AFM in Muzarabani also echoed the same sentiments of how they saw the preaching gift in him as he grow up. The man who only chose to be identified as Chibwe, reminisces on how Prophet Makandiwa started performing miracles at AFM back home hence the fame he has now did not come as a shock to them.
“We saw him grow up and some of us noted back then that this young man had a gift. He was my junior at church but I could not help but notice the talent he had then.I’m happy he is raising the flag high and I’m happy to be called a child of the prophet although he is way younger than me,” says Mr Chibwe.
But not everyone shares the same sentiments about the son of Muzarabani as people like Headman Mudoka preferred not to dwell much on the prophet’s fame as he distanced himself noting that he was not the headman when the prophet grew up and was still in the City back then. Headman Mudoka did not even acknowledge that the submersible pump and borehole at his home was put for him by the prophet.
“I don’t know much about him as I was not the sitting headman then. He hardly comes home and I can’t really say that I have interacted with him. We also go to different denominations and really I have nothing to say about him. Those who grew up with him and his family or those who go to his church are the better people to talk to.”
Meanwhile at the Muzarabani shopping centre, one cannot help notice shops named GogMak, short for GogoMakandiwa, which comprises of a grocery shop and a boutique.
“These belong to Prophet Makandiwa’s mother and when she is around, she sometimes supervises work at the shops. The family owns many of the businesses around this area. I’m not a congregant of the UFIC but I can also confirm that Prophet Makandiwa has given back to this community through the projects that he has funded,” said a person at the growth point.
“I attended one of his crusades when he came to Muzarabani and the man is a good preacher,” says one tomato vendor. While marginalised Muzarabani remains impoverished due to the natural and man-made disasters, the place will forever be remembered for giving birth to the charismatic preacher. It is perhaps the Nazareth of the UFIC church and no doubt the birthplace of a religious icon of our time! The Herald