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With many industries facing closure in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, churches have taken over the empty premises. Our blogger asks whether this means that churches are the new dominant industry.

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, used to be called ‘Konthuthu ziyathunqa’ (a place that continually exudes smoke) because of it industries. But now… Okay, maybe the name still fits, with the smoke that rises from cooking fires in the townships, compounds, ghettoes, and suburbs because of the regular power cuts. ZESA (the power company) has literally turned the entire country into ‘Konthuthu Ziyathunqa’.

Bulawayo’s reputation as an industrial giant is now history. Most of Bulawayo’s manufacturing industries have either moved to the capital, Harare, or shut down, fuelling claims of government marginalisation. What remains of the infrastructure is dilapidating further, or taken over by a new form of industry: the Church.

Industry by definition is the production of a good or service within an economy. Shouldn’t it provide employment for more than just the owner of the said establishment and his wife? Pastors are no longer different from artists now, since many are flown from countries like Nigeria to attend conferences.

They are accommodated, fed, awarded per diems and a ‘performance fee’. Their stature in the religious world attracts faithful multitudes bearing tithes and offerings.

Pastors are now like ‘celebrities’

Recently, one pastor at a conference suggested that people who wanted a miracle in 7 days offer $50 notes. And people lined up in their multitudes. He further suggested that those who want miracles in 24 hours offer $100. Fundraising? Methinks.

I wonder whether our ministry of industry has made provision for this religious industrialization in their policy.

Churches are generating large amounts of money. With some pastors net worth exceeding 60 million dollars, churches are making more than many successful conventional businesses. The source of all this money remains a mystery but it is certainly not ‘miracle money’. And why this has gone on for years without tax implications proves that the government has been benefiting all the while. I don’t think they are so stupid as to overlook something of such magnitude.

From the onset, and despite protests from Orthodox churches, government allowed anyone who wanted to open a church to be able to register. Until these new churches began racking in millions of dollars annually, the government didn’t seem to care about them. Churches have been exempt from taxation until a recent threat by the desperate-for-funds Zimbabwean Government through ZIMRA, its revenue authority.

With over 80% of Zimbabweans professing Christianity as their religion, it is obvious the government wanted the following, and thus let slide many practices that should have been governed by law. Suddenly they want a piece of that godly-pie with these new threats of trying to find ways to tax these churches.

With unemployment so high, the government’s priority should be formulating means of getting the industries functional again, over licencing any and every con-man out there who wants to open a church, all because you want a registration fee.

This is a sign of failure, considering how fundamental industry is to the state. It is the result of ignoring inconstancies in policy, and applying laws willy-nilly when it is convenient.

The church is the new business, preaching a gospel of financial prosperity in a space that preaches against the love of money. The question is, whose prosperity really?

Waza is proud to feature as part of its content local bloggers who have a knack for expressing their unique perspectives, independent thoughts and engaging stories. The opinions written here are those of the author.For more on prosperity churches, you can check out our Speak up edition on the prosperity gospel.

Source : Waza