Organisers of the annual Gwanda Gospel Festival, which is in its third year, have announced dates for this year’s edition and preparations are in progress.

This year’s festival, which is running under the theme, “The Walls of Jericho Did Fall”, will be held from September 7-9 in Gwanda with the line-up of performers being finalised. The event is being hosted by Big Time Strategic Group in a bid to promote local and regional talents, praising and worshipping God.

In an interview, South Africa-based Big Time Strategic Group founder Justice Maphosa said they have already started planning for the event. Maphosa said they chose the theme, “The Walls of Jericho Did Fall” because it signifies strength.

“Any obstacle, any problem, any mountain in your life can be overcome through prayer. The story of the walls of Jericho falling down is one that vividly demonstrates the miraculous power of God.

“But more than that, the utter destruction of Jericho teaches us several grand truths regarding God’s grace and our salvation,” he said.

He said although the dates and theme have been revealed they are still working on contracts with some musicians who are billed to take part.

“The line-up is being finalised. We usually keep this as a secret up until the final month before the event. This is for us to keep our house in order in case one artiste pulls out, and allows us to minimise the damage caused,” he said.

Maphosa said each year they bring new aspects. “When we praise God, we would always raise the bar. This year people can expect huge sound systems, major fireworks, fancy stage works, state-of-the-art lighting and surprise guest musician.”

The business tycoon said the festival has boosted Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.”Religious tourism can be one of the most effective tools for inclusive and sustainable development. It raises awareness of our common heritage, which helps to ensure its preservation. This is what the people of Gwanda are doing with this show. Religious heritage sites have an immeasurable value in religious terms and as a source of public education, identity and pride.”And we can re-invest the income from religious tourism in preserving our cultural heritage if we build them and model them around such events. Secondly, it can contribute to community development and empowerment. When tourists meet and show interest in the unique values of local communities, these communities can be empowered.

“Currently, we have internal tourism around the Gwanda gospel show,” he explained.

Maphosa said although a huge investment is sacrificed for the festival, they also face some challenges.

“As you know that the event has surprised some, its magnitude, its message, the people around it – community participation around it, our God has blessed us all the time. This has kept us humble and praying. However, this does not mean there are no challenges. Clearance at the border posts remains a challenge especially when one is racing against time and working on deadlines.

“Moving tonness of equipment between two countries remains a huge task that cannot be ignored. More than 680km of road travel and heavy tonnage always posee a risk to the event. We do our best to make sure everything goes smoothly under such testing conditions.”

He said there is also a challenge of hosting guests because Gwanda has limited accommodation facilities.

By Tafadzwa Zimoyo, Herald