Gono exposes 'miracle money'

HARARE - Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono yesterday took the unprecedented step of holding a joint presser with celebrity preachers Uebert Angel and Emmanuel Makandiwa, where flaws in the former’s “miracle money” were exposed.

At the Harare event, Gono not only expressed fears of Angel’s “money” amplifying money laundering activities and feeding into terrorism, but the 34-year-old “prophet” also made a major climb-down on what exactly his cash-increase crusades were all about.

But a fiery Angel — who says he studied finance at Bolton University in the United Kingdom — stunned reporters by claiming he did not actually create new money, except powers to restore stolen cash.

“The miracle is not in creating money. I am not saying if creating money is done by God it is wrong, because God is above all and... Jesus is above all. Anyone can be president, but Jesus is king. You need to understand that part,” the Spirit Embassy founder said on Tuesday.

“So at the end of the day, we did not say we are creating money. That miracle, we have said, is restoration. You lose $20, we bring it back into your pocket. The miracle is in the distance, how it travelled from Mutoko where you lost it into your pocket. That’s where the miracle is,” he said.

“When you lost it, did it have serial numbers? Yes, if it comes back into your pocket, why shouldn’t it (with serial numbers)? It’s just stupidity gone on the rampage... At the end of the day, you just can’t write, ah they are creating money. We have said it’s restoration. If you lose $20, we are bringing it back. That’s all we did. If you don’t believe that, then it’s an issue of belief,” Angel said, in remarks aimed at the media.

With the duo still smarting from a vicious attack from another local cleric Godwin Chitsinde, among other quarters, who accuse them of cheating their followers using “Nigerian tricks”, the meeting — initiated by the two — was actually aimed at mending fences between authorities and the two prosperity gospel preachers.

Earlier, Gono had reportedly stressed to the young and mega-rich pastors — known to their flocks as “papa” — that their activities had the potential to contravene national, regional and international laws governing the legitimate use of money.

“I think the last three or so weeks have been dominated not by the monetary policy... but issues to do with the word of God, signs, miracles and wonders which are outside the realm of understanding by men. We also, as the Central Bank, came in to give our views concerning their work as far as it concerns matters that we don’t understand,” the RBZ boss at his Samora Machel tower.

“They belong to the... the spiritual realm and we are charged with ensuring that man’s laws, and regulations are observed, implemented and monitored. So there is no denial that issues to do with what l have mentioned as miracles, signs and wonders do confuse men. So when they started talking about miracle money, (l thought) aizve asi kwava neumwe governor? Ko munin’ina aita sei zve ava kusaina mari yaani? (What! Is there a new governor? What is this young man up to, is he usurping my powers)?”

On Makandiwa’s United Family International Church (UFIC), Gono said — as a regulator of the gold industry — they were equally concerned by gold dust miracles performed in the church that has also become one of Zimbabwe’s fastest-growing congregations.

“Then came the issue of gold dust and other minerals, I didn’t hear you talk about diamonds, but anyway ndikati aizve, kozvingaite sei zve (I said what! How does this happen)?” he quipped, adding it was against this background “that we got together to try and appreciate every one of us was coming from.”

In response, Makandiwa said they had a “fruitful conversation” with Gono which he claimed had cleared a lot of “mist”.

“...as you have said, there are laws that are supposed to be observed by whoever and that is exactly what we are determined to do. And looking at how God operates (as we have also realised)... we have not been successful in trying to put God in a box and teach him (how) to behave. It has been a very, very difficult thing,” the UFIC founder said.

“We wish he would listen, but sometimes when we pray certain things happen and you have seen them happening. But we really appreciate what God is doing. Apart from what is happening, we need to have like some kaleidoscopic view of everything. We really appreciate that God is really up to something for this nation, that’s the overall theme. It means God is giving his people, starting with Zimbabwe. And I also personally believe (that) this is what I call wealth creation,” Makandiwa said, to which Gono said it was “empowerment”.

The tripartite meeting came after Angel and Makandiwa’s followers had allegedly seen their bank accounts, and pockets swell up with cash, while the latter’s parishioners were allegedly picking up gold bullion — a development trashed by experts.

In the aftermath of Angel’s claims, Gono in January spotlighted the issue of “miracle money” by saying it contravened the United Nations Convention on Suppression of Financing of Terrorism (1999), Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, otherwise known as the Palermo Convention, and three key Zimbabwean laws namely the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money-Laundering Act, Serious Offences (Confiscation of Profits) Act and Suppression of Foreign, and International Terrorism Act.

However, the parties now claim they have found each other and there was no breach of any law yet in what the “prophets” were doing.

“And l am happy to say that there is no contradiction in... what they have been doing, the laws which we must continue to observe,” Gono said.

“Principally, we were concerned about the creation of conditions (for)...  money laundering as well as financing of terrorism. That we are very concerned about and to ensure that there is nothing of that sort... and that whatever the two blessed men of God do is not in violation of those conventions, rules and regulations,” he said, adding they “perfectly understood one another” now.

“Our role was not to stop them from doing miracles, but to alert them to the dangers of certain actions. I am charged with looking after Zimbabwe’s monetary laws, naturally it brought us into that dialogue and this has produced an understanding,” Gono said.

Crucially, Angel hinted the venom being thrown their way was probably being driven by rivalry between the ever-increasing number of Pentecostal churches in the country and “religion was now more dangerous than politics”.

To this, Makandiwa added his voice by saying: “We allow the anointing that we carry to be tested. If there is a case, which is difficult you bring it on board.” - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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