Zim's prophets under spotlight

HARARE - The shocking video of a popular South African pastor, Alph Lukau, ostensibly bringing a “dead” Zimbabwean man back to life during a church service in Johannesburg, has reignited intense debate about the country’s ubiquitous charismatic preachers and self-styled prophets, the Daily News can report.

During the service — as recorded in the sickening video which has gone viral around the world on social media — the coffin of the supposedly dead man’s body is seen being removed from the hearse as hordes of Lukau’s adoring followers gather around it.

A woman who claims to be the “dead” man’s landlady then tells Lukau, of Alleluia Ministries, that the “deceased” got sick and started coughing on Friday last week, which prompted her and others to take him to the hospital.

“That is where he died in my hands,” the supposed landlady gushes — at which point Lukau begins to pray for the body, which was said to have come straight from the mortuary, and prompting the “dead man” to sit up in the coffin with his mouth and eyes wide open. 

This dreadful story comes after another popular and self-proclaimed prophet, Shepherd Bushiri, was recently arrested by South African police on serious charges of fraud and contravening Pretoria’s Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

In addition, many of Bushiri’s congregants now claim that they handed over to him millions of rands after the “prophet” promised them huge and fast returns on their hard-earned money through a “commodity investment opportunity” that failed dismally.

Emails and other documents in the possession of South African weekly newspaper, the City Press, show that investors were promised a 50 percent return within 30 banking days of placing their investments of between R100 000 and R1 million with the preacher.

Needless to say, the congregants are yet to receive a cent from the church, a year after Bushiri’s promises of mega returns on their cash.

“We have called, sent emails and SMSed the numbers they provided during the investment, but no one is responding. I went to their offices in Sandton, but they referred me to the church.

“At the church, no one knows who is responsible for handling our issues. They just act as if nothing has happened and this makes me sick. I am still repaying the loan I took for the investment and the interest, and I know many people who are going through the same problem,” one congregant complained bitterly at the weekend.

Although Lukau and his Alleluia Ministries have since tried to walk back on the resurrection story on the back of the scathing criticism that they received, analysts and leaders of mainstream churches who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Zimbabweans also needed to be more careful when dealing with self-proclaimed prophets and other like-minded charlatans who were making a lucrative business out of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lawyer and politician Obert Gutu said while the country’s Constitution allowed freedom of conscience among other freedoms, the proliferation of dubious churches led by so-called prophets called for a review of some enabling regulations.

“Section 60 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience by stating that every person has the freedom to propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief — whether in public or in private, and whether alone or together with others.

“It would appear that this fundamental human right and liberty has been routinely abused by criminals masquerading as genuine pastors and prophets,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is that millions of unsuspecting and gullible people are being hoodwinked and swindled by these latter-day ‘prophets’ and crooks. Zimbabweans should be on the lookout for these crooks who masquerade as ‘prophets’ when in actual fact they are philanderers, murderers, pathological liars and in some cases, serial rapists.

“I strongly advocate for the regularisation of churches in tandem with the provisions of the supreme law of the land in order to protect innocent Zimbabweans from these marauding crooks and criminals,” Gutu added. 

Zimbabwe Council of Churches secretary-general Kenneth Mtata said “there has been a rise in people given different titles in the past decade and who have redefined conventional Christians at a number of levels”.

“They claim to have special knowledge about God … because of the special insight allegedly given to them by God … and since they have some special knowledge, their followers must depend on them for decisions, be it in business, politics and family life.

“It is this group of people who have found a way of manipulating many people who are desperate … and have managed to tap into the African Traditional Religion where the understanding among Africans is that for someone to succeed there must be some supernatural influence from outside, and if someone is not succeeding it means that there is some negative supernatural forces that must be overcome,” Mtata said.

“So, there is an interesting syncretism that has developed in the last 15 or so years, and this kind of Christianity is the one we are seeing manifesting in different forms of chicanery and manipulation and the miracles that are purported to have been performed as we have seen. Regulating religion is very difficult especially if your Constitution allows the freedom of religion and worship, and so to put restrictions on religion will be against the Constitution.

“What could be put as a requirement is that all churches should affiliate to one of the mother bodies, so that there is mutual accountability. This is what I think could address the problem,” Mtata added.

Ilana van Wyk, a lecturer in Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said the prosperity gospel — as a religious movement — had exploded in popularity and prominence in Africa over the past two decades, despite stirring up controversy globally for more than 40 years.

“Today it’s the fastest growing religious movement in South Africa. While precise statistics are lacking, scholars agree that prosperity gospel followers rival, if not exceed, the numbers of so-called mainline churches,” she said.

Explaining the power and tenets of the prosperity gospel, Van Wyk said it typically viewed poverty and illness in terms of sins against God, specifically the withholding of tithes.

“It also ascribes such ‘bad luck’ to the work of demons engaged in a spiritual war against God’s kingdom. Converts typically renounce their past lives and their old churches. They embrace ‘spiritual technologies’ which include offerings in church, paying tithes, praying strongly and exorcising demons ... that promise to secure miraculous health and wealth directly from God. They also follow preacher-prophets who they believe have special powers to fight against the ‘spirit of poverty’.

“Many believers are strengthened in this faith through the persistent testimonies of those who had been ‘blessed’ with jobs, houses, cars and healing in church. These testimonies are delivered from church pulpits and in person, and are endlessly repeated in church publications and on radio, television and the Internet,” Van Wyk said.

And contrary to false beliefs that such prophets and their churches attracted mostly poor people, Van Wyk’s research had showed that prosperity gospel preachers attracted people from all walks of life and a variety of educational backgrounds.

“These churches also count significant numbers of professionals, business people and increasingly politicians in their ranks. I often struggle to convince people that those who subscribe to this gospel are not simply credulous dupes,” she said.

    Comments (18)

    What has this got to do with us in Zim? There is Xenophobia in SA so why didnt you tackle it the same way. This article is an attack on personalities you hate. Why mention prophets when this Lukau guy is a pastor? WHY DIDNT YOU TARGET PASTORS? Your headline is deceiving just put Name of Prophet in Zim you want to attack. When it happens in Zim you never get SA media attacking its own pastors or prophets coz they know it is confined to Zim. Shame on you Daily news you can do better than this rubbish.

    Use Senses - 27 February 2019

    Fake prophets have caused a storm in African societies. As African societies, we have poverty in many families and hence these criminals are taking advantage of the situation. Put it simple, lets do the Paul Kagame way. Put stringent policies in place and they will run away. Rwanda is now clean and Paul Kagame has banned all thes noise making groupings disguising as churches yet they are criminals robbing poor people's hard earned cash. Look the Zimbabwean situation, these fake cults or criminals are now filthy rich at the expense of those paying the tithe. Come African folks, lets wake up. Imagine being told by that stupid pastor that he has communicated with God (god) via a cellphone. My God, l think we are now living in a rotten society and most of the folks walking in the streets are not normal. l and l doubt their sanity and l believe most of them are not normal because they are the ones flocking to these churches run by criminals. Poverty has also contributed immensely to this fiasco.

    Clemence Tashaya - 27 February 2019

    How many Zimbabweans bought eversharp 15 pens at exorbitant prices believing they will perform miracles in exams, what about ordinary bricks, maize cobs, seeding money, any positive results realized.

    Kufandada - 27 February 2019

    @Use Sense: This is daily news paper. The reporting is just extreme most of the time. When people speak of FAKE NEWS, there is a time we shall speak of FAKE Reporters! How come they really enjoy abuse our country and its people?

    Canniza - 27 February 2019

    Poverty and desperation is playing a huge part in enslaving our people to these false pastors and false prophets who have become so many in Zimbabwe and Africa, capitalizing on our gullible people who are desperate enough to grasp at anything that offers hope. Our people have become so brainwashed they will bite your head off for pointing out that they are being hoodwinked. Lord have mercy

    Den - 27 February 2019

    Use Senses: I see you probably are one of those fake pastors or prophets. You even want us to think there is such a huge difference between the two. Biblically yes, but not these earthly pastors and prophets and prophetesses that we see these days. Other writers: yes poverty is driving many people to these thieves. But I also feel that laziness is another big contributor!! If you read and are prepared for your exams you don't need a miracle pen. You would rather pray for good health on the day - no headaches no nothing. Its only a person who doesn't want to get down to mould bricks (kupinda muganyiro chaiko -literally and metaphorically) who would want to buy a miracle brick to build a house. All that is a sign of laziness!!!!

    Zvenyika - 27 February 2019

    How are these fake prophets ant different from Zanu PF really? They've promised us milk and honey but we are now living like rats. They lie to us in order to steal with the other hand. All the same to me.

    Moe Syszlack - 27 February 2019

    Mr Jefure, your report is not accurate. The pastor is from DRC and the resurrected dead man is also not a Zimbabwean. I'm not a synagogue or Pentecostal, I'm an Apostolic. I'm just concerned about your lies

    chamboko - 28 February 2019

    Sometimes we have to just use our brains here are now wolf dresses in sheep clothes these days im just giving an insight

    billionz - 28 February 2019

    Sometimes we have to just use our brains here are now wolf dresses in sheep clothes these days im just giving an insight

    billionz - 28 February 2019

    Yes, these "prophets" are no different to zanu pf charlatants and their proxies at dead bc, herald and all other zanu pf outlets where logic and reason and thinking are taboo.

    Sagitarr - 28 February 2019

    @CHAMBOKO uri dofo rakadzidza ndosaka uchi biliviswa mafake miracles tisiire Mr Mujefure

    g40 - 28 February 2019

    In Zimbabwe we also have our own fake pastors and prophets, and topping the list are Emmanuelmakandiwa, walter magaya, sanyangore, ezekiel guti, chipunza, madzibaba steven, masango, marane, and all afm pastors and presidents. makandiwa once did a fake miracle of losing weight. magaya is a fraudster, rapist, and a hardcore criminal being protected by our corrupt political rulers

    Munhu WaMwari - 28 February 2019

    I thought the fulcrum of those gitating should be teaching fellow citizens on how to identify bogus preachers/pastors instead of just roundly condemning the gospel. It is like throwing away the baby and the filthy bath water

    Sororenzou - 28 February 2019

    When you mention names please be prepared to substantiate your allegations. It is unfair to just assassinate someone's name with generalizations that are not substantiated. Not all these so called later-day preachers are without substance. Of late we have issues of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. But It does not mean that all Catholic priests are like that.

    Sororenzou - 28 February 2019

    An interesting but sensetive discussion indeed. At the bottom of it is poverty from poorly managed national economic activity, poorly educated communities and desperation. The advent of free TV gospel channels coinciding with declining African economies fueled and fast tracked this phenomenon. African governments must invest heavily on education so their citizens cannot be taken advantage of, invest heavily on tangible all encompassing economic growth where citizenry are participating no lull times. Then lastly the current surge of pastors prophets has to be harnessed by robust laws and institutions

    Sinyo - 1 March 2019

    study the word . dont rush to criticize. if you have no evidence or if you dont believe in that man of God better to keep quite. miracle you cant understand them with your mind. IF YOU STUDY THE PROPHETS IN THE BIBLE YOU WILL SEE WHAT THEY DID WAS FAR WORSE . MOSES" STAFF CHANGED INTO A SNAKE, NOAR BEGIN TO SPEAK SOON AFTER BIRTH, ELISHA USED A STICK TO PULL OUT THE DROWN AXE UNDER WATER. ELIJAR RAN FASTER THAN A CHARIOT OF HORSES. ELISHA COMMANDED THE HUYENAS FROM NOWHERE TO EAT THE CHILDEN WHO WERE LAUGHING AT HIS BALD HEAD. HE ALS RAISED THE DEAD SON. ISAIH PREACHED NAKED.

    RABSON - 2 March 2019

    @USE SENSES: USE YOUR SENSES. PASTOR/PROPHET/APOSTLE whatever some of these con artists wishes to call themselves, some of them are real scams. You don't have to watch the Lukau video twice to see the work of master con artists. Am not too sure why you're attacking the reporter.

    TENDAI - 5 March 2019

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