Bongani Ndlovu/Mthabisi Tshuma recently in Gwanda
For Gwanda residents, the free fifth edition of the Gwanda International Gospel Festival (GIGF) came at an opportune time as it has resurrected most residents’ faith in God.
The marathon festival, which started on Friday and ended yesterday at Phelandaba Stadium, is touted as one of the finest gospel shows in the country and the continent.
The sermons in between performances left the community spiritually revived as preachers took turns to solidify the “God is speaking, are you listening” theme which became a weekend mantra in the mining town.
From the first day of the festival on Friday, residents were eager to watch their favourite gospel artistes. It was a festival that faced uncertainty amid rumours that it was not going to take place, but when the stage was erected days before the festival the mood changed in the mining town.
The festival kicked off in high gear with Indosakusa: The Morning Star giving a good account of themselves as they made a return to the festival this year.
It was not about who was the stand out performers at the festival but it was a consumate all-round experience with something for everyone. For instance, when the crowd wanted to dance, Mathias Mhere, Vocal Ex, Harvest Music Super Choir would lead them on a twirl and in worshiping Sipho Makhabane took over with a rousing medley of his hit songs.
The only disappointment however, was that Swaziland’s Timothy Ncandweni who most of the fans had come to see, did not make the trip.
The tempo was upped on the second day as people thronged the venue to watch an array of musicians, with Takesure Zamar and Mkhululi Bhebhe teaming one after the other to electrify the crowd.
But Shongwe and his Khuphuka Saved Group who closed off the show on the second day was who the multitudes had come to see. It was evident from the moment he went on stage; wild cheers were the order of the day. The festival is bankrolled by South Africa-based businessman Justice Maphosa through his company Big Time Strategic Group.
In separate interviews attendees admired the bond Maphosa has with the mining town.
“When l was listening to his speech which was broadcast live in the stadium from South Africa, I had goosebumps because of the undying love the man of God (Justice Maphosa) has for the town and the nation at large.
“Even without being able to come and grace the occasion, his effort of making sure that the gospel show continues to be bigger and better is commendable,” said Lizzy Marupi from Beitbridge.
At the end of the show on Saturday evening artistes who performed came together and wowed fans with a soul-touching rendition of Amazing Grace. This is was a deviation from the norm of past years where there was a firework display.
Target Ndlovu who was awed by the solidarity performance of the song Amazing Grace by all the performers said the festival reminded him of the day he repented.
Bigtime Strategic Group spokesperson, Mthokozisi Dube said: “Indeed, Gwanda has become an altar of God where we all gather to seek the face of the Lord. The most fulfilling thing we saw was people praise and worship God unreservedly during the festival.
“The people of Gwanda have also taken time to pray for our beloved nation and we believe God has heard their cries and will answer in due season,” he said.
Dube said local bands have grown from strength to strength.
“The level of growth among local bands is quite heartening for us and it’s our desire to see them grow and collaborate with some of the guest artistes from outside,” said Dube.
Another plus according to Dube is that they were using Zimbabwean companies like Events Evolution for stage and lighting which he described as world class.
“Previous years we would bring in equipment from South Africa for the festival. Now Events Evolution, a local company, has taken over and they were doing an amazing job. They are true testimony to the fact that local companies are able to deliver world class events,” said Dube.