SOME students from Solusi University have abandoned school and joined church fanatics who are preparing themselves for Jesus Christ’s return.
The group has camped on a farm, abandoning all worldly things for a pure “Christian life” in the depths of Honde Valley, where Zimbabwe meets Mozambique in the Eastern Highlands.
The bizarre development follows reports that a South African church has shocked the world after its pastor coerced congregants into eating snakes, hair weaves, grass, clothes and even drinking petrol. This reportedly happened after the pastor had apparently “miraculously” turned them into chocolate.
Chris Chidzomba, a 23-year-old, abandoned his accounting degree studies to become a pilgrim in the rural areas where he joined six others. Chidzomba, who was in his final year at Solusi University, is part of a group of “Adventists” who, driven by religion, secluded themselves from the world so that they could prepare themselves for Christ’s return, which to them is imminent.
Though Chidzomba did not want to open up to the Weekend Post, his mother Olivia Chari believes what happened to him is similar to other cases where people are brainwashed and radicalised by religion.
His case is just a drop in the ocean as there are many others where religious fanaticism has takencentre stage.
In an interview with the Weekend Post, Chari said her son secretly attended the Seventh Day Reformed Church in Hillside before relocating to the farm.
“It hurts because we have been paying school fees all this time, about $1 300 every semester and for someone to just wake up and say he no longer wants to go to school is hurtful. Now he says he needs someone to convince him to go back to school,” she said.
She said it was not fair that Tendai Matsatse, a pharmacist who owns the farm, was enjoying the comforts of city life while her son was confined to the rural areas.
“They have been brainwashed,” she said.
Just last week, Chari managed to remove her son from the farm with the help of the police.
“He says he no longer wants to go to school because he says there’s no point because the world is coming to an end,” she said.
Chari, who works in South Africa, said she only located her son after her sister who lives in Harare filed a police report forcing pastor Russel Katiyo to release information on Chris’s whereabouts.
“When I initially went there after being informed by friends of the church, I heard them preaching that other congregants must not give out the hideouts of those who had chosen country life,” she said.
Katiyo, however, denied withholding information from Chari.
“Surely at 23, you cannot be forced to do something you don’t want to do and for Chris it was a personal choice. We just teach people what we teach and people make their own decisions and I told them what I knew at that time, which is why he was in Honde Valley,” Katiyo said.
“Our teachings are that if you are a Christian and would want to follow Christ’s way of life, you need to be away from worldly influences. Even in the Bible, God tells his people to get away from Babylon, from confusion. And for them, the confusion came in the form of education,” he added.
Asked on why he was still in the city and not in the rural areas with the rest of the pilgrims, Katiyo said; “You stay where you feel you are strong. It’s a personal choice. No one is sent anywhere and I never refused with information on Chris’s where about.”
When contacted for comment the plot owner, Matsatse, said he merely provided accommodation for the pilgrims.
“If you are not in his shoes you would not understand him, but what I did is, after a camp that we went to in April, people showed interest in country living and I said I had a place, those who want can come, so I offered my place and it was also going to be easy for me in terms of preparation of the place because I needed to spend money to improve the place,” Matsatse said.
“I did not know Chris that much, I only knew that he was at Solusi, the fact that Christ is coming is true. We cannot run away from that, and we have to prepare for that.
“What those boys were trying to do was education reform, because after doing accounts the next thing to do is look for a job and what if that job requires you to go to work on Saturday? That becomes a problem. The easiest way is to start your own thing, get your own piece of land,” he added.
The 30-year-old said the only problem in Chidzomba’s case was that he had not informed his parents of his decision.
“The thing that breaks my heart is that Chris did not communicate with his mother, there are other people who told their parents and they do not have problems. He made his choice based on religion and you cannot convince someone like that otherwise,” he said.
Matsatse said he will eventually move to the plot but for now he needed to raise money to put proper infrastructure for future plans.
“You become dependent on the system. You’re paying rent, you’re paying this and that, but with country living you leave a lot of these things and have a chance to produce your own food.
“I can’t raise my family here (in the city) for various reasons. For those of us who have kids, we would prefer home schooling. It will not be like they are not learning, they are learning and they even write exams.
“Zimsec has a home schooling programme. It’s not like your child is going to be a hermit like they are separated from everyone else in life,” Matsatse said