The Sunday Mail
AMONG the hundreds of people that patiently awaited their chance to consult one of the country’s most popular traditional healers – Kamwelo Banda – popularly known as Sekuru Banda, was Mr Eric Johnson, a visiting Belgian herbal enthusiast. Although the majority of foreigners in attendance were from neighbouring Southern African countries, West Africa was also fairly represented with Nigerians and Cameroonians constituting the bigger chunk. Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of foreigners seeking the services of Sekuru Banda.
The traditional healer, just like United Family International Church leader Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and PHD Ministries’ Walter Magaya, has become a major player in promoting religious tourism. According to Sekuru Banda, a sizeable number of foreigners visit his ‘surgery’ every day.
“Some come as individuals whilst others come in groups. Last week, we had a group of 40 herbalists from South Africa with whom I exchanged notes. We have had groups from all over the world coming down here to learn and get spiritual guidance,” Sekuru Banda said.
The local tourism industry is cashing in on religious tourism which incorporates pilgrimages, camp-meetings, missionary, retreats and other religious events.
Apart from global arrivals, the number of domestic tourists has increased since people from as far as Binga and Chiredzi are coming to Harare to seek spiritual help. The people end up visiting other places of interest. Sectors such as transport, accommodation, conference centres as well as the food and beverage sectors are benefiting from the visits.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is on record expressing happiness with the pace at which religious tourism is growing. In the past, conferences by Walter Magaya’s PHD Ministries has attracted tens of thousands of people, steering up economic activity in the process.
Some of the people who have attended the conferences come from countries like South Africa, Botswana and also as far as Kenya and Tanzania.
It was estimated that Prophet Makandiwa’s “Judgment Night 3” attracted more than 100 000 congregants from around the country and abroad.
Each year, Jehovah’s Witnesses from all African countries converge in Harare, snapping up all hotel spaces. Government is advocating for an increase in church conventions and other forms of religious tourism.
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, there are efforts to grow the country’s annual tourism earnings to US$5 billion by 2020.