At first glance, Bishop Cuthbert Nyaruvenda, the founder of Sangano Dzvene Revapostori Church, looks like an ordinary person next door.
Alighting from his car clad in a blue T-shirt and matching jean trousers, the tall and slim religious leader smiles and waves at his congregants as he leisurely walks into his “surgery” situated in Harare’s high-density suburb of Highfield.
But he is fast becoming one of the country’s most controversial religious figures.
The apostolic church leader recently caused a stir when he led his congregants to perform, in broad daylight, a religious ceremony where traditional beer and snuff openly flowed.
The locals, who knew the congregation to be Christian, watched in bewilderment as church members numbering more than 300 — in flagrant disregard of Covid-19 regulations — conducted African traditional religious rites, through which spirits of the dead were supposedly invoked to help the living.
During the ceremony, there were gourds filled with traditional beer, while snuff was generously passed from one willing hand to the other.
By practising both faith and traditional healing, the Mhondoro-born faith-healer said he is determined to prove that the “oil and water don’t mix” proverb is wrong after all.
Last week, The Sunday Mail Society caught up with Bishop Nyaruvenda.
Throughout the interview, he maintained that there is nothing wrong with practising both faith and traditional healing.
“It started as a suggestion. I noticed that many of my followers have problems that can only be solved through traditional healing. After a church service, I called upon those that would want to have their problems solved the traditional way to stay behind,” Bishop Nyaruvenda said.
“I was shocked by the response. The majority of the congregation stayed behind and what followed was a day in which evil spirits were cast away the traditional way.”
Asked if mixing faith and traditional healing was acceptable, a clearly unamused Bishop Nyaruvenda accused some of the Christians of being hypocrites.
“I said it before and I am going to say it again: Most people, among them well-known religious leaders, are hypocrites.
‘‘During the day, they will be busy castigating traditional healing yet these are people that come to seek our services during the night,” he added.
Waving a reed mat which he said is called “karondora”, the controversial healer claimed it possesses magical powers that he uses in his craft.
Two mysterious bottles with beaded sticks neatly tied inside are part of his paraphernalia.
How the sticks were tied and neatly placed inside the bottles defies logic.
Across the room were apostolic faith regalia such as garments, including a colourless liquid the faith-cum-traditional healer said was “holy water”.
There were also some smoothly polished pebbles.
“In our traditional beliefs, we have the spirits and in Christianity these are the angles. Unfortunately, the majority of our people were deliberately misinformed and believe that African spirits are demons,” added the bishop, who is also the vice president of the Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association (ZINPA).
ZINPA represents the interests of traditional and faith healers, herbalists and traditional birth attendants.
But most people are incredulous about this mixed healing practice.
“One cannot serve God and be a sangoma at the same time. These two are opposed to each other as ways of life. This man is misleading the nation,” Mr Paul Majoni, a Highfield resident, said.
Some Christians said the bishop’s actions are ominous.
“It is either one is a Christian or a traditionalist. We cannot mix the two. This man is deceiving his followers,” Pastor Mike Mutongoreya of the Jehovah Jireh Ministries said.
But Madzibaba Gamba (born Martin Madzura), another religious leader who practices both faith and traditional healing, holds a different view.
“Even the Bible says give Caesar what belongs to him. As Africans, we have spiritual problems which can only be solved the traditional way.
“A Christian can have a problem solved the traditional way and then carry on with their Christian beliefs,” he said.
Can one be a faith and traditional healer at the same time?