I am tempted to differ a little. The purpose of my write up is not so much to defend Zondo, but to say the story focused on the water and not the primary purpose of the visit. Little was drawn on the fact that the service was primarily one for the preaching of the gospel which apparently was very inspirational. We don't question it when John Maxwell or some American motivator charges a few thousands at the door to pay running costs and keep his mission financed, but we are often a little too harsh on the mission of the church.
No interview was made of the people who attended the service nor much attention paid to the theology of the water, say by sourcing a comment of the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana or a comment by the Botswana Christian Council. I am informed that people were prayed for and hundreds given counseling and yet no attention was given to any positive things about the service. We are not expecting the newspapers to do public relations for the churches but perhaps it's about time we get a few scribes born again and spirit filled to enable balanced reporting on the positive side of the evangelical and Pentecostal experience.
For starters I did not attend the Zondo services and I would not be surprised if few from my church went, if any.This is because we are currently teaching on' full restoration of the gifts to the church' and against people running after miracles. In other words, scripture is clear that miracles will follow people who believe - that is, every believing Christian should and can be a conduit for miracles just as the Lord Jesus did. However, the focus of the story on the water is as skewed as the people who scrambled for the water, if they did so thinking the water, per se, would on its own produce miracles in their lives.
The Monitor Meets Jesus
For a moment, I imagined Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe and his editor sometimes around AD 30: Jesus has just given 5,000 people food from five loaves and two fish and people eating all over, with a lot of remainder. My imaginary scribe of AD 30, Monkagedi, runs to the editor with the story and the focus is on the party and food galore at the Jesus picnic service. This miracle guy from Nazareth is 'wooing people with bread' says The Monitor headline of AD30. Everybody then condemns Jesus on account of the 'bread tactics'. They miss the message that while the bread was intended to meet their hunger needs there is also a symbolic representation of Jesus as the bread of life.
A demand for the tangible
In their edited book, Theology Cooked in an African Pot, Fiedlar and others go at lengths to explain the characteristic motivation of the new Christian movements in Africa. So then, by focusing on the water Monkagedi missed the plot. Yet, what surprised me the most was some evangelical and Pentecostal friends who were surprised that so many people went for the water. I would like to propose that Zondo is a beneficiary of the TB Joshua advertising and 'pentecostalising' of the water which people such as pastor Mangadi of Palapye and Erick of Kopong have emulated with much response. A significant number of people who attended the Zondo session have DSTV or filibao that gives them a little overdose of Emmanual Tv and others that have popularised 'holy water' as an essential component of personal spiritual ritual. This to me represents a merging of the Pentecostal and Independent African Church theologies in an African setting, where the traditional DNA expects the intangible from the tangible.
Ten years ago the use of water and self-induced vomiting (go ghapa) was the sole preserve of African Independent Churches (white garment churches) with ZCC adding the special coffee drinking and other rituals of cleaning the bowel through 'sepeiti'. For instance, the use of strings on hands and waists was initially a preserve of the white garment churches but is now creeping into traditionally evangelical and Pentecostal churches who used to shun it.
Through the merchandisation of colourful wrist bands by increasingly popular folks such as Zimbabwean prophet Angel and a few others, the evangelical is in courtship with the use of megala. Is the African looking for something tangible ?Before we condemn or condone the use of water let us remember instances when Jesus and the Biblical prophets healed using both intangibility (the spoken word) and tangibility including mud, touching or a shower in some river. The early church always used anointing oil -as the book of James prescribes, and the Apostle Paul used handkerchiefs.
It is not a method but a matter of inspiration and spiritual direction. I can understand the temptation to stick to a tradition just because it is making profit when perhaps its initial spiritual instruction has reached expiration. For now, it seems Zondo came to a community hell bent on getting his water. Yet, I would not be surprised if someone got healed of an incurable disease or received a miracle or had their hope renewed to face another day.
It's a matter of faith. As for those who needed a souvenir of their Zondo conference encounter and pilgrimage, they too got fulfillment out of the reported scramble. Good for tourism, memory and continuity.
*Philip Segadika is a pastor at the Church of God of Prophecy. However views expressed here are not necessarily those of the church or its affiliates.