To the rich and famous, their services have been sought for more riches, power and spiritual solutions to chronic ailment.
To the poor, they are a rich reservoir of hope; and to government, they have come in handy in pointing out which rocks ooze diesel.
The influence of prophets and n’angas among Zimbabweans became too apparent this week when Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries founder Walter Magaya divided the nation with claims he had stumbled upon the much elusive cure for HIV/Aids.
Even more vexing was the preacher’s surprise departure from the spiritual world that has given him fame to proffer a practical solution to one of the world’s most puzzling ailments.
But the story of a poor and despondent nation that has pinned its survival and prosperity hopes on spirit is much older than Magaya’s astounding claims.
In 2007, then President Robert Mugabe sent a delegation of cabinet ministers to a Chinhoyi spirit medium’s shrine after the latter had claimed she had powers to command rocks to gush mega-litres of diesel to supply the whole country.
Seven years later, there was even more proof to high level gullibility when Mugabe elbowed out one of his deputies Joice Mujuru claiming she had consulted a Nigerian sorcerer to kill him.
He was not alone among politicians that have viewed matters with the spiritual lance.
Vice President Kembo Mohadi was once shown on a video at a sermon by a Malawian prophet who predicted his imminent rise to a bigger post.
During election periods, politicians often find themselves decked out in white robes and joining vapositori congregations to solicit for votes.
But while meetings between politicians and prophets, n’angas are often spaced and sometimes clandestine, the over-reliance on spirit among locals is more evident in giant congregations that pack charismatic prophets’ churches week in and week out.
“The tragedy with Zimbabwe is that we are a nation with no hope. In nations such as these, religious fundamentalism thrives,” says political and economic commentator Geraldine Sibanda.
“The people have nothing else to believe in. That is why it is easy to sell them the hope of an unknown god with an unknown power which can only be bestowed on selected people.
“The government has failed to provide healthcare and the people turn to unknown sources for healing.”
Top cleric and United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) head Reverend Sikhalo Cele concurs.
“People who have experienced pain become more vulnerable to anything that claims to be addressing their challenges,” he says.
“Because of pain and suffering people have given up to their efforts and hope that the Almighty will do miracles even on things they need to do themselves.
“They surrender to any exploitation in the name of faith. Some people have mistaken faith. Believing their prophets more than believing God.”
Unwell Vice President Constantino Chiwenga had harsher words for “fake” prophets last week.
“There are others who are now calling themselves prophets,” VP Chiwenga said while singling out local preacher Apostle Talent Chiwenga who has president his imminent death.
“We don’t have that culture where one moves around attacking leaders under the guise of preaching the word of God. God does not say move around attacking other people.
“We want people to go to church and pray to God. This habit of using the name of the church to extort money is not good. How can you say that on the one hand you are practising Satanism and on the other you say you are a prophet, what kind of a prophecy is that? It’s not good and we don’t want that.”