The Tabernacle of David: The Key to Disciplining Communities & Nations (Zimbabwe)
Let me call her… Sarah (a nice biblical name). We grew up in the same Afrikaans farming community in Zimbabwe in the sixties and seventies.
We reconnected recently at a social event – a gathering of family and friends.
Her eyes swept enviously over my painted lips, mascaraed lashes, and ash blond highlighted locks – nothing heavy, just pretty. I could see hope shrinking like a cowering dog in a darkened room corner, in her wide eyed stare.
It was as if only had she just had the courage to slip a note to someone, KNOWING that it would make no material difference to her life, yet fulfilling in her that she had at least TRIED. Tried to tell the “outside world” what was going on in hers. This is the reality of women married into a cult in ZIMBABWE.
She was not born into this “culture”. She was already in her mid thirties when this “family transition” happened and as far as I know, family religious practices until then were limited to an hour of worship on a Sunday at the local NG Kerk in town, and substantial pre-meal prayers of thanksgiving. Now her existence is something akin to that of a submissive wife in a Sicilian mafia family.
In 1980, when Robert Mugabe was swept to power, lauded by the British as the messiah chosen to lead Zimbabwe into the 21st century, major events unfolded. By 1995/96 the cracks in the country became chasms, and in 1997, amid whispers of impending threat, people turned to the most familiar imaginary friend: God. In the late 1990’s Zimbabwe was increasingly becoming a Police State, and the violent white owned land invasions in 2000 spawned a breakdown in the traditional family fabric.
The resulting stresses of anxiety and depression lead to indulgences in drugs, alcohol and prescription medication. People left for “greener” pastures in Australia and elsewhere. Marriages fell apart from infidelity and uncertainty.
The antidote to this breakdown was religion. Not just any religion, cult religion – the seeds of which took hold in this fertile ground of chaos and flourished, in the tiny rural town of Chinoyi, about 90 minutes drive north of Harare.
The name of this religious outfit is “The Tabernacle of David”. It is a cult shrouded in secrecy. All social media among its members is either forbidden or strongly frowned upon. Women are browbeaten into submission to the extent that the wives are made to prostrate themselves so their husbands can walk on them.
They may not wear makeup, and although education is “permitted”, the church and its teachings come first. Many of the post adolescent children born post 1995 are swept into a church career.
I came away from that encounter with “Sarah” heavy hearted. An enquiry as to a possible suitor to her now 19 year old daughter was interjected upon by her husband “We are praying for her”. Anon.