A showdown looms between Walter Magaya’s Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries, and the community of Nyau dancers, known as the National Dance Organisation of Gure.
This follows hard on the heels of another fight between Magaya and the apostolic churches after he accused them of using “marine spirits from the dark kingdom” to further their ends.
However, Prophet Magaya could find himself dealing with more than just a war of words should the Nyau community follow through with their plan to hit back. The Nyau community, also known as Gule Wamkulu or Zvigure, is planning a huge demonstration against Prophet Magaya by marching to PHD’s church in Waterfalls — in their trademark costumes and masks.
The Nyau community boasts of 450 clubs (dance groups) with membership of no less than 50 each, which translates to over 22 000 members.
The community wants to protest against Prophet Magaya’s Yadah TV, which has been exposing some of the cult’s secret rituals.
The mysterious cult has a following in among some Chewa in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia and Nyau dancers are protective of their culture.
The Nyau community says exposure of their secrets is an infringement of their cultural beliefs and Yadah TV has gravely injured them.
Yadah TV has been airing footage of former Nyau dancers talking about their culture, dance routines, songs and their meanings.
But over the past few weeks, complaints from Nyau leaders have been filed at the Zimbabwe Traditional Dancers Association.
Several have suggested busing members to PHD Ministries’ headquarters in Waterfalls to protest screening of their cultural practices on Yadah TV. However, ZNTDA president Kennedy Kachuruka says they would rather seek audience with Prophet Magaya and resolve the issue amicably.
The Sunday Mail Leisure last week spoke to Kachuruka who shed more light on the situation.
“As an organisation representing traditional dancers and with a mandate of preserving local culture, these developments are quite disturbing and have become a nightmare to the Nyau community.
“These past few weeks there have been numerous groups that have suggested going to protest at Magaya’s church in Waterfalls but I have advised them to wait while we look for other avenues of handling the situation,” said Kachuruka.
He said that it was improper for Prophet Magaya to expose the Nyau’s sacred culture, and that it was taboo for non-Nyaus to be exposed to their secrets.
“Kupinda muNyau zvakafanana nekuroora saka handifungi kuti pane munhu angade kuti mukadzi wake aonekwe neruzhinji asina kupfeka kana zvaanoita nemudzimai wake mubedroom (Joining Nyau is like getting married, and I don’t think anyone would want his wife to be exposed naked in public or exposing one’s bedroom antics).
“Magaya has been saying a lot of bad things about the Nyau culture and we have kept quiet but this time I think he has gone too far,” said Kachuruka.
Kachuruka, a member of the Nyau community and president of the National Dance Organisation of Gure, said that there was nothing Satanic about Nyau dances.
“This dance originates from Zambia, Malawi as well as Mozambique and has survived in Zimbabwe for more than a century, which means it is now deeply rooted.”
Kachuruka went on to criticise Magaya for attacking other religions and cultures during his sermons rather than concentrating on his own practices.
“If he was a real Christian with healing powers would we still have blind people and cripples on the streets? Everyone has the right to practice what they believe in and Magaya should leave other cultures alone.”
PHD Ministries, through its senior overseer Admire Mango has, however, dismissed the Nyau threats saying the episode on Yadah TV would continue being broadcast.
“The church has done nothing wrong. We cannot stop people from repenting and surrendering whatever regalia and other things that they were using away from Christ. Some people that are delivered at our church do not want their faces on television but there is nothing we can do about that because everything that happens at PHD is recorded.
“These Nyau people are just looking for controversy where there is none. The story here is not Nyau dancers protesting against PHD but a Nyau dancer, who happened to be a high ranking official there, finding salvation in Christ,” said Mango.
The possibility of a protest has not been ruled out though.
Said Kachuruka: “We have the right to protect our culture and if he continues screening those clips on TV we will definitely go and protest against him. It is not just Nyau culture, which is under threat, but I believe Magaya has just declared war against local culture in general.”
Kachuruka said that Nyau dancers were not against Christianity and their members could also be Christians.
The Sunday Mail Leisure has a copy of letter by Chegutu Nyau dance groups to PHD Ministries complaining about the screening of their rituals.
The letter appeals to Yadah TV to stop these broadcasts — and warns of consequences should the screenings continue.
In an interview, the leader of Chitungwiza-based Landilani Amanyawa, Albert Luke Suwane, said they were prepared to take up the matter with the police and courts.
“If this continues I think we will take it to the police because claiming that someone is evil or possesses evil spirits without evidence is defamation of character. Magaya should just concentrate on prophesying and leave our culture alone,” said Suwane.