For the past forty one years, the 20th of July has been remembered every year by the Zion Christian Church members as a very special day on the Church’s calendar. This is the day that the founder of the church which celebrated its centenary in 2013 passed on peacefully at Defe Dopota in Gokwe and was buried on the 24th of July 1976. For many years the ceremony was held on the 20th of July at Defe Dopota in Gokwe, but of late the church has moved the ceremony close to the Heroes Holidays in August in order to accommodate the working class and students who would have closed schools.
Many people in this country ask questions as to the full story of Samuel Mutendi who has become a household name in the local religious circles. A good number of people mistake his son Bishop Dr Nehemiah Mutendi for his father the late Reverend Samuel Mutendi. Worse still a lot of people mistake Mbungo Estates which houses the majestic Church building for the headquarters of ZCC when in fact Defe Dopota in Gokwe is the Church headquarters. Defe, the ZCC headquarters located on the fringes of Chirisa Game Park some 95 kilometres due west of Gokwe town in Gokwe South (off Nemangwe road) in a formerly tsetse infested area, is the premier heritage site of the Zion Christian Church.
This place was chosen by the Lord and revealed to Rev Samuel Mutendi in the early seventies, who in turn showed it to his son Nehemiah the current Bishop, long before the church established its mission station there. Defe Dopota was also the final resting place of Rev Samuel Mutendi as he passed on peacefully at this holy place on the 20th of July 1976. To cap it all Defe Dopota was the final destination of the legendary Star of Samuel,( Nyeredzi ya Samere) the so called UFO (unidentified flying object) which was witnessed by thousands of people both Zionists and non-Zionists members across the Southern African region, among them meteorological officers and pilots in their flight on the 23rd of July 1976, in a dazzling display of the celestial portrait of Rev Samuel Mutendi in the night sky as he was putting on his silver star badge, his church cap and his Mapumhangozi rod. This sighting confirmed a prophecy which had been made by the Reverend at Sote in Gutu on the 12th of July 1976 where he alerted his elders that some three days after he had gone, they would witness a miraculous sign confirming his passing on. The ZCC fraternity is currently very busy packing their bags and making all the preparations for the annual pilgrimage to Defe Dopota where most of them shall spend a whole week from the 6th of August to the 13th celebrating the life of the humble servant of God who left a living legacy of faith in Jesus Christ which is the bedrock of the Zion Christian Church today.
It is the place that every Zionist faithful in Zimbabwe would refer to as our own Shilo or Bethel (Gen 28:16-17) to which every Zionist should pay annual homage and seek inspiration from the memory of our dear departed prophet and founder of the church. The Place is turning into a religious attraction tourist resort of note, dubbed an oasis of hope because of the diverse development projects underway at the ZCC headquarters. Describing Defe Dopota one Professor Daniel, had this to say “…out of the crucible and heartbreak of a lost Holy City (in Bikita at Mutarara) emerged a disappointed yet unbroken African Moses who led his people with God’s wisdom and Rozvi courage to transform the dust-bowl of Gokwe into an oasis of economic progress and Zionist education.”
In essence Defe Dopota which shall host more than 100 000 pilgrims this August, welcomes pilgrims from all over the world throughout the year and the annual 20 July memorial ceremonies are becoming one of the most outstanding tourist attractions in the religious tourism calendar of Zimbabwe.
Hundreds of buses and light motor vehicles of all shapes and sizes throng Defe Dopota from all corners of the country and region during the memorial week. Pedestrians from all over the country arrive earlier than the motorists and as the day approaches, a carnival atmosphere greets any visitor who is fortunate to attend this annual event. This annual event has grown so much in popularity that a very large portion of the people who attend are curious visitors and traders who annually register substantial economic gains from trading with the pilgrims. Music from the evergreen ZCC Dopota brass brand and choral groups from parishes around the country and region dominate the sounds during the day and nights. The inspirational messages from the Man of God will be the greatest attraction for the pilgrims from the 6th to the 13th of August 2017.
If you plan to visit Zimbabwe in August and have a flair for praise or worship you should make an effort to include on your itinerary, a visit to the ’20 July Memorial Ceremony’ held at Defe Dopota annually in Gokwe South during the second week of August around the Heroes holidays.. Defe shall forever remain one of the most popular Zionist Religious Heritage and Pilgrimage destinations in this country and region. – Masvingo Mirror