Girl Jesus (right) and her mother
Clad in a pair of skinny jeans, a hooded jacket, black boots and playing the mbira, she energetically and confidently moves to African traditional rhythms. What some in the crowd are oblivious to is that the young woman on stage is “Christ the Messiah,” a title she has claimed for the past 19 years. She lets out a high-pitched, melodic chorus that gets the crowd worked up as they start cheering and whistling loudly.
Shantele Nyanhete, as she is known in music circles, is in fact Tepsy Nyanhete. But Zimbabweans have known her better over the years as “Jekia Mambo Tenzi” or “Ishe Jesu” – the leader of the Mudzimu Unoyera cult.
This is Guruve’s famed Girl Jesus.
According to information gathered by The Sunday Mail Society, the now 25-year-old Girl Jesus has found a new love in traditional music and she is the lead vocalist in Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble, a group stewarded by Ginatsia Nyanhete, also known as Jah Lemmy.
Knowledge, Tepsy’s older brother, is the director of the group. The group released an eight-track album titled “Topinda Musango” in 2013, and has since shared the stage with mega stars like Oliver Mtukudzi and Alick Macheso.
Her new-found love, it seems, has completely turned her head and she now spends much of her time rehearsing or performing around Zimbabwe with Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble. This has – some in the community say – resulted in her parents grooming another Girl Jesus in the form of Tespy’s younger sister, Moses.
Their father Enias Nyanhete, who is also known as Baba Joseph, denied the crew a chance to interview the new Girl Jesus, and also claimed the “original” Girl Jesus was not a musician now. “Mambo Jesu is not part of the band, she is still very committed to her duties,” he said.
“However, she will not be able to see you today because when she was persecuted and killed 2 000 years ago it was because Mambo Tenzi was not selective on the people he helped,” he said in reference to the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. “Now she knows better. She is also angry since some of her demands have not been met by relevant authorities.
Like I said, she said she is still Jesus and no one will replace her. Vana vangu vese vanemasimba iwaya. Ko ini ndimbori nevana here?
“When we were arrested in 2006, Moses was only three, however she stunned everyone by reading the Bible, warning the authorities against arresting us.”
Girl Jesus on stage during a musical show
Several sources close to the musical outfit said Tepsy had ventured into music full-time. “At 25, she is a grown woman and she sees women of her age having families and she yearns for that,” said a source.
“From the look of things she wants to be her own person and live a normal life,” one of them said. Her song from the group’s album titled “Ndaiti Ndikakura” has lyrics that appear to bear testimony to this assertion.
Tepsy first made headlines in 1998 when she and her parents claimed she was Jesus at the age of six. Since then Tepsy has been worshipped by cult members and pampered like a queen. She was rarely seen.
“I am sure she looks at some women of her age and she looks at the practices in her cult and she no longer wants that,” another source said.
The Mudzimu Unoyera cult she led made headlines recently when it barred its womenfolk from wearing dresses and skits, instead recommending khaki shorts and trousers for everyone.
Their shrine accommodates a number of followers who take turns to do chores for Girl Jesus. It is a communal arrangement in which almost everything is shared.
Mudzimu Unoyera recognise Thursday through to Saturday as their Sabbath, with all daily activities – including bathing – suspended during that period.
The cult uses its own language, which they say Girl Jesus taught them, and it is known as Titinoia Pirida. The sect even has its own Bible – written Titinoia Pirida.