President Robert Mugabe's closest officials trooped to Nigerian "prophet" TB Joshua seeking salvation last week.
Two of Mugabe's top men, Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi and Manicaland governor and resident minister Christopher Mushowe forked out thousands of dollars to attend TB Joshua's New Year sermon in defiance of Mugabe's calls for them to shun such churches.
Mushowe is also director of Mugabe's scholarship programme. Zanu PF secretary for women's affairs Oppah Muchinguri is another of Mugabe's top aides with an affinity for TB Joshua.
Mohadi and Mushowe's sojourn to TB Joshua's Nigerian base comes barely two months after Grace Mugabe echoed her husband's sentiments against locals who seek help from a new breed of prophets such as TB Joshua.
Grace said Zimbabweans should stop wasting money visiting foreign prophets but should instead seek salvation cheaper locally. Addressing Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa at a women's conference at Glamis Stadium in November, Grace said people should have faith in local preachers.
"I really don't understand why scores of people are putting their faith on foreign preachers. They are having to raise money to visit them when in Zimbabwe we are blessed with anointed people of God who are able to do even greater things," she said.
Some in her husband's inner circle think hers is a shrill call though. Mohadi and Mushowe made it a point to be in Nigeria as TB Joshua made prophecies for individuals especially politicians whom he accused of using the young for their personal political gains. Cameras continuously zoomed on the two Zanu PF stalwarts as TB Joshua declared a year of judgment on abusive politicians.
"I am seeing many great, famous, popular and rich men and politicians will become helpless and in need of help in matters of sickness, disease, finances, death etc. One of the causes: They have failed to reward those who helped them to succeed. This is the year of judgment, especially for politicians who use youths to support their political ambitions without reward after winning power. Tell your neighbour to reward those who help you succeed now," said TB Joshua.
Efforts to contact Mushowe for a comment were fruitless as his secretary said he was off and could not be reached on his mobile number. Mohadi was also not available for comment.
Mugabe has in the past attacked local preachers taking a leaf from foreigners who are claiming to be annointed couples, saying there were now too many people masquerading as prophets in Zimbabwe.
Many such couples look up to the likes of TB Joshua as their doyens. He said some Pentecostal churches were extorting gifts from their followers by making it mandatory for congregants to "give" to their leader.
He said this at Manyene Holy Cross in Chikomba while addressing mourners at the burial of Grace's aunt, Mavis Mugadza last year.
While the Mugabe family loathes foreign churches, his political rival and coalition government Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai seems to embrace them with open arms as he together with close ally Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone have visited TB Joshua before.