Interviews & Talks

10 July 2017

Understanding the times

Ben Freeth, July 2017

Christian Economic Forum – White Paper

Understanding the Times: Facing the Giants

Zimbabwe remains an African disaster story.  Indeed the story of Africa, if we look at the cold facts dispassionately, is a horrifying tale of unfulfilled potential, poverty and man-made ruination.  I argue in this paper that there are spiritual forces at play in Africa that the world fails to understand and take into account when they analyse the reasons for such poverty. These forces need to be understood and countered.

Once upon a time, Zimbabwe was a great success story.  In fact, starting from when the pioneer column arrived in 1890, history will show that no country has ever progressed so fast.  Despite the inhabitants having no wheel, no written language and wearing mainly animal skins, what was then Rhodesia became the most developed country in Africa after South Africa in just six decades.

Ø  Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s former first city, was within four years of its establishment in 1893, a modern city with a railway all the way through to Cape Town 2,000 miles away, and was one of the first towns in the world with electric street lights.    

Ø  Kariba dam – built more than half a century ago in the 1950s - remains the biggest man-made body of water in the world - and Zimbabwe has more irrigation dams than the rest of Africa put together (excluding South Africa).

Ø  Zimbabwe’s combined commercial agricultural yields for five primary crops were ranked highest in the entire world in 1975.

Ø  Zimbabwe was the second most industrialised country in Africa. 

Ø  Our roads, railways, education and health care systems were the best in Africa.

Ø  Our currency was the strongest in Africa.

Hard work, courage and innovation, coupled with excellent institutions and committed individuals, produced a great success story.  In recent years we have experienced at first-hand the terrible decisions that were made to bring about such a spectacular decline. 

The question we need to answer is what, at the very root, is behind the decision-making process that has wrought such horrific destruction on such an advanced African economic success story?

Nathaniel Manheru, widely believed to be George Charamba, President Mugabe’s controversial spokesman, wrote in a recent column: “However scientific we become, however developed, we should always remember there is that inscrutable realm that governs the affairs of this land. 

It is the land of Chaminuka, Nehanda and Kaguvi and other mediums… the metaphysical factor which bears down on this land cannot be wished away…We have our guardians [spirits], our God and real Christianity will not break this great chain…” [The state-owned Herald newspaper, 16 February 2017][i].   


These names meant much to me because I was severely beaten with sticks next to a shrine to Nehanda and Kaguvi by a man from Mugabe’s brutal secret police. The reason was that I had come to take some friends to hospital after they had been tortured by the same secret policeman early in the farm invasions. 

After 37 years in power, at the age of 93, and after bringing his country into such poverty, it is important that we try to understand the powers that have led the power-hungry Mugabe to wreak such destruction on his land. 

Our President has the totem of a crocodile – “gushungo”.  Totems in much of African culture are very significant.  Each family has its own totem.  Each one has a spiritual significance.  The crocodile totem in Africa goes way back to the earliest societies.  The Egyptian God “Sobek” was worshipped in the Old Kingdom nearly 5,000 years ago.  Crocodiles symbolised ultimate power.  In one of the centres of worship, a town called “Crocodiliopolis” by the Greeks, a canal was built from the Nile to feed a great lake as early as 2,300 BC.  Crocodiles were fed by the priests and adorned with gold and jewels.  They were held in such honour that they were mummified like the Pharaohs.

This statue of Sobek was found at Amenemhat III's mortuary temple (which was connected to his pyramid at Hawara in the Faiyum), serving as a testament to this king's devotion to Sobek. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

It is noteworthy that members of the President’s office gave President Mugabe a 13-foot stuffed crocodile for his 83rd birthday. 

Our Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is also known as “the crocodile”.  He got his name from the civil war in the 1970s when he would lure his targets into an ambush without their suspecting anything and then attack from nowhere – as a crocodile does from under the water.  He once said: “A crocodile never hunts out of water.  It never goes in the villages or bush to hunt but waits in the water to strike at the appropriate time.”

The gang led by the founder of President Mugabe’s ZANU party, Ndabaningi Sithole, who killed the first white farmer back in 1964 at the start of the carnage of murder that led to President Mugabe’s rise to power was called, unsurprisingly, the “crocodile gang”.   

The crocodile and the powerful water spirits have played a major part in African rule. The King of Lesotho, one of the last African monarchs, wore a huge robe featuring a crocodile print at his coronation. General Babangida of Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, was known as Prince of the Niger River. 

President Idi Amin of Uganda, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, sacrificed 3,000 bullocks to the crocodiles and water spirits at the source of the Nile on his coming to power in 1971.  Bodies of the people he killed were frequently dumped into the Nile River because graves couldn't be dug fast enough. At one point, so many bodies were fed to crocodiles that the remains occasionally clogged intake ducts at Uganda's main hydroelectric plant at Jinja.”

During the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the crocodiles of the Nile were bloated when it ran red with some of the blood of an estimated 800,000 people, many of whom were hacked to death with machetes.  It was nothing new.  The Pharaoh decreed in the time of Moses: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile.”[Ex:1:22].  Sobek, the great crocodile god, has been ruling over African affairs for thousands of years.

The first Christian missionary, who walked hundreds of miles to Zimbabwe nearly 500 years ago, Fr Goncalo da Silveira[ii], came to a kingdom where the crocodile was much revered.  He himself was martyred by the Monomotapa king of the time – Monomotapa means “Master Pillager”.  The king believed tales that Fr da Silveira was a spy and sorcerer, so he was strangled and his body was thrown to the crocodiles in the Musengezi river.

At “Great Zimbabwe”, the largest African stone ruin in sub-Saharan Africa, the chevron crocodile pattern adorns much of the stonework.  In the ruins several birds were found carved in stone. Unsurprisingly, the bird that was chosen as Zimbabwe’s emblem - out of all the birds found at the ruins - is the bird with the crocodile climbing slyly up the plinth towards it – as if to devour it.


Left:  A stone carving of the Zimbabwe bird with a crocodile crawling up the plinth

Centre:  The tower in the Great Enclosure at Great Zimbabwe

Right:  Stone carving of the Zimbabwe bird against the backdrop of a dry stone wall

In 1997, our Reserve Bank building was completed - the tallest building in Zimbabwe.  When it was first planned, it was to have been the tallest building in Africa.  There is spiritual significance in the “high places” and “babel” structures.   A massive golden reproduction of the bird stands over a pool of water dominating the front entrance.  


The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in Harare

On all the former bank notes, just as on the stamps, flag, national airline etc, the bird (with the crocodile) and the chevron pattern took prominence.  The very next year after the long anticipated Reserve Bank building was completed – with its crocodile guardian spirit - the currency crashed.  From having been the strongest currency in Africa, within 15 years the Zimbabwe dollar had reached world record inflation rates (89 sextillion percent in November 2008)[iii] and then became completely obsolete.   


One hundred trillion Zimbabwean dollars could be exchanged for U.S. dollars until

the end of April 2016, but it was worth only about $0.40.

It is significant to note that the primary epitaph of Sobek, the Egyptian Crocodile God, is “he who loves robbery”.  The Monomotapa “master pillager” title is an extension of this.  “Robbery” and “pillaging” and the destruction of property rights is the primary reason for the poverty in Zimbabwe today.  

During the early days of the farm invasions and robberies in 2000, it was important for “Gushungo” that people were strategically killed.  One of the first white commercial farmers to be targeted and murdered was Martin Olds – a brave man who was decorated by Mugabe in 1989 after rescuing a friend of his from the jaws of a crocodile.

The first farm to be invaded was Saffron Walden farm.  The reason I believes it was the first was because the President’s nyanga (witch doctor/magician) had taken up residence in the hills on this farm.  Sadly, the farm owner’s son had previously been killed by a crocodile in the Zambezi river.

Foyle farm, the largest dairy farm in Zimbabwe, was taken without compensation by President Mugabe himself - and renamed Gushungo (crocodile) Dairy Estate.  Thousands of farms have been looted in this way and the population of Zimbabwe has been dependent on Western food aid every year since the farm looting began. In brazen defiance of God, the President and his wife, Grace, sell milk from their stolen cows at Gushungo Dairy Estate under the “Alpha Omega” brand - the name for Our God. [Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13]. 

In Christian and economic terms, robbery is an anathema.  It goes directly against both the 10th Commandment [Thou shalt not covet] and the 8th [Thou shalt not steal].  States and peoples that practice covetousness and theft from their own people and fellow citizens always end up poor and hungry.    

The “giant” in our country of Zimbabwe and our continent of Africa is entrenched in the spiritual forces of evil that rule it.  The world has little understanding of this.  As Christians we are able to cast light on the forces that are unseen in our world – and counter them.      

We know that our struggle is that of Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

While I was writing this white paper, my wife, Laura, discovered an 11-foot, 700 pound crocodile in the botanical gardens close to Harare’s CBD.  It was under a blanket within 20 metres of the road which “Gushungo” – our President – takes to his Politburo and Cabinet meetings.  Laura was nervous of taking off the blanket and called me.  When I removed it, I discovered that the head had been smashed in horribly and the jaw broken.  The dead beast was crawling with maggots. 


Left: The body of the crocodile discovered in Harare’s botanical gardens in February 2017

Right:  Crocodile tracks in a dry riverbed

A few days later we found a dead python nearby.  Then a week after that, there was another huge dead python.  This called to mind Psalm 74:13-14: “You broke the heads of the monster in the waters.  It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan.”  “The Lord will punish with his sword…  Leviathan the gliding serpent.” [Isaiah 27:1].      

Numerous Christian countries chose St. George as their patron Saint. It is interesting that St George is reputed to have killed the dragon in a fresh water spring in Libya, North Africa. Locals had been sacrificing maidens from the town to appease the dragon, who lived near the spring.  St. George took on “Sobek” – or Satan - and won – through the cross.  It seems clear that the “dragon” was a crocodile - or leviathan.   Job Chapter 41 is devoted entirely to the horror of leviathan.  Leviathan is symbolic of Satan who wishes to “kill, steal and destroy”. 

St George slaying the dragon

The Goliath we are up against needs Davidic or Georgian courage to be destroyed. Satan is moving – and the Spiritual battle is raging.  But as we trust God and move in His paths, establishing His ways - strengthening and equipping His church, which is one of our primary focus areas - we will see Satan’s wickedness pushed back.   By breaking the spiritual and physical strongholds of Satan in our nations, victory will be assured, just as it was with David and with St. George and in so many other situations through history.





Ben Freeth

Executive Director

Mike Campbell Foundation 

Mobile:  +263 773 929 138 (Zimbabwe)





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