Popular preacher and founder of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries (PHD), Walter Magaya, has opened up for the first time about his life and ministry since he faced allegations of adultery earlier in the year.
In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview, ahead of his birthday yesterday, the modest preacher chose not to speak directly about the damaging claims, but said humbly that the devil would "always strive to disturb the work of God", adding that all the accusations that he had faced had not been substantiated.
"There is no testimony without test. There is no way we can be where we are without being tested," Magaya said, in apparent reference to the adultery claims that were levelled against him by Harare resident Denford Mutashu.
Mutashu later withdrew his claims and confessed openly in church, after withdrawing his court action.
Magaya said all the difficulties he had faced had given him crucial life lessons, adding that his detractors allowed him to grow both spiritually and as a human being.
He said because of all these difficult life lessons, he had now written a book titled Theme of the Heart, which is set for launch tomorrow.
Quizzed over the fact that his church has courted controversial figures such as Beverly "Bev" Sibanda, Magaya said the Word of God was open to all people and this is what kept the church going strong.
"If David had killed a small man, he would never be in the Bible. I strongly believe challenges make us who we are," he said.
Asked why he always appeared to live modestly, he said this was how he aspired to live his life as he understood that he was still human despite the tens of thousands of people who flocked to his church weekly.
Magaya emphasised that fame was also not something that one had to carry in one’s head.
"I am a man of God and not God of man," the humble preacher said, during the interview at his Waterfalls church in Harare, while making preparations for the massive all-night prayer scheduled for tomorrow where it is estimated up to 300 000 people will attend.
Magaya does not drive a state-of-the-art car and neither does he dress like a flamboyant businessman — consciously choosing to snub designer clothes and shoes for cheap tracksuits and sandals.
Magaya said if a person was popular and influential in society, that person was obliged "to keep his head down".
"If I am a prophet and become very popular, I have to make sure that I stay composed. Right now, I even have to control my movements. I was walking in the city today and at least two people collapsed and fainted on meeting me. Large crowds of people follow me, some wanting me to lay my hands on them.
"So I avoid walking in crowded areas like the city centre because I end up causing unnecessary commotion and people might get hurt. That is why I prefer to spend most of my time at church, meeting people there," said the charismatic preacher.
Born in Mhondoro Ngezi, Magaya, who says he still has time for his family despite a hectic schedule, said he started his ministry in 1998 when he first received Jesus in his life.
During the time, he was in the Roman Catholic Church together with a charismatic group called Blood of the Lamp Christian Community (BLCC). He also lived in Chitungwiza then.
"I was very young. I started developing myself bit by bit," he said.
He later moved to Mabvuku and discovered that he had a gift of prophecy in 2003.
He said all his efforts to venture into business flopped, until he went to Nigeria in 2009, where he visited TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations.
TB Joshua was later to become Magaya’s spiritual father.
Magaya said when he went to Nigeria, he had 80 business proposals and his mission was to get advice from the man of God on the kind of business he could venture into successfully.
"I ventured from one business to another and I tried almost every project. I tried venturing into the kombi business, butcheries, shops and all forms of businesses you can think of but it was not my calling."
Magaya said the turning point was when TB Joshua prophesied to him that he was not a businessman, but was a gifted prophet.
"Prophet TB Joshua also gave me some anointing oil and that is how I managed to start a ministry in 2011, which initially had less than 40 congregants.
"Last year, the ministry started to grow, and we moved to 100, 200, 500 and that’s when my colleagues from BLCC advised me to move to a more spacious venue.
"This time last year, we were on 5 000 people but now we get as much as 80 000 to our Sunday service and when we have special days like Big Sunday we get even more than 200 000 people," Magaya said.
Voted as the 2014 most influential person below the age of 40, Magaya, has now even managed to launch a television station, Yadah Television; has assisted more than 5 000 families; and has donated houses to several people this year.
Each time he holds conferences, the charismatic preacher has managed to draw tens of thousands of people from across Zimbabwe, and this year he drew some of the biggest crowds ever seen at church congregations and has managed to spread his missions to Bulawayo and Mutare.
Asked whether he was a fake prophet out to milk money from people and whether he used juju in his healing ministry as his detractors allege,
Magaya laughed this off saying that almost 98 percent of the people who came to his church also had the same misconception at some point.
"I expected that question because it is popular with some people. The problem with some people is that they judge from outside. Sometimes when you visit, your heart will convince you that God is alive and indeed God is alive," he said.
And on the use of juju, he said, "Juju does not heal, juju does not perform miracles. It is God who performs miracles using people like us. At PHD, God heals through the ministry.
"The good thing about us is that we encourage doubters to come for one service and they will go home believers. This is why I say 98 percent of the people who attend this ministry came as doubters".
Responding to a question regarding whether his church was some form of a personal money-making business, based on its teachings of prosperity, Magaya said there was nothing bad about preaching prosperity.
"In my ministry if you look at our teachings they are about empowering people to be entrepreneurs. The gospel of Jesus Christ was of prosperity, his first teachings was ‘I have come to preach to the poor, empower those that have not been empowered’.
"How do we empower people? Someone comes with a problem which needs urgent attention and is maybe charged $20 000 at hospital but when he or she is healed here, they will have saved the money. So, who would have been empowered with $20 000, the ministry or the healed person?" he asked.
Asked if he considered himself to be a rich person, Magaya said, "I am rich enough to give".
He said he always endeavoured to remain with 10 percent of what he got and to distribute the other 90 percent.
Magaya is married to Tendai and the couple has two children, Yadah Makanaka and Walter Junior.