There is a "battle" for control raging in Zimbabwe far divorced from the political battles of the last decade, but the stakes might just as well be as high. It is a battle for the souls of hundreds of thousands of miracle-seeking Zimbabweans between the country's leading church leaders, prophets Walter Magaya and Emmanuel Makandiwa.
Nothing – not music shows, not sports events, not political rallies – is drawing crowds the way these fellows are doing, and church attendance has gone beyond just a personal matter and is now more of a public lifestyle issue.
After preaching prosperity, healing the sick and performing all manner of miracles, the prophets have come up with a new soul-winning formula: anointing oil.
The oil is now the most-sought-after product among the multitudes that throng these church leaders' services.
Recent statement by Magaya of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries (PHD) and Makandiwa of United Family International Church (UFIC), as reported by several publications, indicate that the battle is hotting up.
Both claim that their anointing oils are supreme, although Makandiwa's is yet to hit the streets.
Introducing his product in front of over 100 000 followers the other weekend, Magaya said: "The oil that we are now using is different from the one we have been using previously. We got an instruction from God to do so, so that is why we have set aside this day to distribute the oil and everyone who gets it — God will act on their situations."
Rewind back to April this year, and another voice, that of Makandiwa, echoes through a packed Glamis Arena, that God has instructed him to launch his "glorious oil" that would render "all other oils given elsewhere useless".
"This one will cause a lot of noise. It will cause chaos. You will be the first to enjoy the fruits of the glory that is coming. Nobody will outrun you and by the time they arrive, you will be enjoying already."
Magaya's anointing oil launch saw police in anti-riot gear called in to control the 120 000-strong congregation that wanted to get its hands on the product that we are told has "resurrection power".
According to its inscription, it offers a "new healthy prosperous life" — a message many Zimbabweans find irresistible.
Reads the packaging: "Your past dark life is over, the anointing is opening a new healthy prosperous life, in Jesus Christ Name."
All around Zindoga Shopping Centre along Simon Mazorodze Road was a sea of humanity, which included people from outside Zimbabwe, striving to get close to Magaya.
Magaya said he expected no more than 60,000 congregants and was pleasantly surprised when double that number turned up; and this has raised the question of whether all those people are indeed religious or simply superstitious. But the hype will likely continue to grow.
Not least because Alishias Musimbe, better known as Maskiri, has released a single that talks about anointing oil.
Maskiri is not the only artiste who believes in Magaya: Nicholas "Madzibaba" Zakaria, Allan Chimbetu and Isaac Chirwa, too, count among congregants.
Proponents of holy oil and/or water are not only found in Zimbabwe alone. Think Nigeria's Temitope Bolugun Joshua, founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).
Locally, the water and the oil are usually given for "free", but one has to buy a DVD first, which costs anything between US$3 and US$5.
Notably, no one – perhaps except the church leaders – knows what makes the water/oil holy.
What is the source of the anointing oil? Does it just appear? Is it extracted from some special plant or animal? Does it come from under the ocean? What makes it so special? Does it really gurantee all the miracles that are promised by its proponents?
There is a claim that this is cooking oil, which the church leaders pray for and consecrate.
Efforts to get comment from PHD were fruitless.
However, this publication is reliably informed that the previous anointing oil used at PHD would arrive at Magaya's residence in Marlborough in huge containers where it would be prayed for before being repackaged into smaller bottles.
And congregants say at the end of the day it all comes down to faith, without which the oil is useless.
In a statement on the SCOAN website, TB Joshua says: "By using the anointing water, you are symbolically setting yourself apart for Jesus Christ's special attention as you pray in faith. I mean, you are positioned for mercy, favour, healing, deliverance, blessing, prosperity and fruitfulness. It is not the anointing water that heals the sick but Jesus Christ Himself. There must be faith both in the person praying and in the person being prayed for. Prayer must proceed from and be accompanied with a lively faith. It is this that brings about the healing, not the anointing water."
The Bible shows that the primary purpose of anointing with holy oil was to cause the anointed become most holy (Exodus 30:29). It goes on to tell us the oil was used exclusively for the priests and the Tabernacle articles but was later extended to include prophets and kings (1 Samuel 10:1).
It was forbidden to be used on an outsider (Exodus 30:33) or to be used on the body of any common persons (Exodus 30:32); and the Israelites were forbidden to duplicate any like it for themselves (Exodus 30:32).
The issues are many, and so are the Zimbabweans flocking to Magaya and Makandiwa.
What remains to be seen is if the two will one day tell their congregants if their oils compliment each other – or if they are really locked in an epic battle for souls.