Romance of the gullible and charismatic preachers in God’s vineyard

By William Muchayi

In his classic masterpiece, A contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right published posthumously, the German philosopher and economist, Karl Marx argued that religion is the opium of the people and in particular, the oppressed who happen to be economically marginalised.

The Big Three in Zimbabwe: Walter Magaya, Uebert Angel and Emmanuel Makandiwa
The Big Three in Zimbabwe: Walter Magaya, Uebert Angel and Emmanuel Makandiwa

Marx observed that religion’s purpose is to create an illusory world of fantasies far detached from the harsh economic realities people live in which prevent them from finding true happiness, thus, providing solace for those who have lost  life’s meaning .

On this premise, for a people in distress, religion provides solace just as people who are physically injured need relief from opiate-based drugs. It is in this context that prosperity gospel has to be understood all over the world and Africa in particular.

In fact, it is no mere coincidence that the Makandiwas and Magayas emerge at a time Zimbabwe is in economic doldrums as millions are reduced to paupers due to the debilitating economic hardships that ravage the country. As central government collapses due to mismanagement, the Makandiwas, Magayas, Bushiris, Mboros and Mudungwes emerge to fill the vacuum and give hope to the hopeless.

At a time Silicon Valley entrepreneurs compete to shape and exploit the merging worlds of technological innovation, the Papas spread a twisted doctrine of seeding among their followers as a quick fix to economic woes. More often than not, followers are made to believe that their economic woes are self- inflicting as opposed to poor governance by central government.  

In order to open the doors of heaven for them, followers are dosed with a concoction of poison before they fall into a trance and in this state, they feel no pain at all, until they wake up. Imagine the hysteria that grip worshippers as Paul Sanyangore of Victory World International Ministries Church claims he is having a telephone conversation with God!

As followers are still in a trance, Walter Magaya through Mussana Levi of Ashelroi Group from Israel convinces the gullible that a rock allegedly curved from Mt Zion, adjacent to the Last Supper room and King David’s tomb in Jerusalem has healing powers.

As Magaya throws himself onto the ground weeping uncontrollably, congregants get into ecstasy.   Since this brand of gospel retards its followers’ ability to reason rationally, no one questions the authenticity let alone magical powers of this rock Mussana Levi parrots before congregants at Magaya’s Prayer Mountain.   

Like sheep before the altar, the gullible followers are made to believe that because of this ‘magical’ rock, the shrine will become a magnet for tourists from all over the world as Mussana Levi predicts, ‘’Christians will stop the trips to Israel for the centre of all nations as Israel will be connected here and by this, we are making way for the second coming of Jesus Christ.’’ 

Bizarrely, Levi praises Mugabe for the peace that prevails in the country in spite of the fact that it is the latter’s misrule that has created the poverty that drives congregants to Magaya.  

As if that is not enough, it’s none other than Walter Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism who commissions Magaya’s shrine.  And, with due respect, did anyone ever remind the Honourable Minister why tourists shun Zimbabwe as a tourist destination?

It is investments in Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, Chinhoyi Caves, Chimanimani mountains and other attractions in addition to the rule of law that lure tourists to Zimbabwe and not this gimmick at Magaya’s shrine. It is only the gullible who are made to believe that by seeding into these prophets’ coffers they will ultimately get rich without realising that it is their tithes that enrich the Papas and not miracle gold from heaven as promised by Makandiwa. 

And, drunk from this concoction of poison, followers of Penuel Mnguni, the self-proclaimed general overseer of End Times Disciples Ministries are allegedly forced to eat live snakes, pants and rats in South Africa while Lethebo Rabalago sprays worshippers with pesticides in purported healing services. Regrettably, no one protects victims as ministers grace such occasions with Kembo Mohadi, the Home Affairs Minister sitting next to Bushiri with the white cloth stuck in his pocket.

Far to the East, Pastor Njohi of the Lord’s Propeller Redemption Church in Kenya advises his female congregants accompanied by their husbands to come to church without underpants so that Christ can freely enter their bodies with his spirit. By the same token, it is only the gullible who watch their wives being abused in whichever way while they watch with the belief that Papa’s semen brings about blessings in their future lives.

In this warped mindset, Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church of South Korea believed that the female reproductive organ ‘’ is like the open mouth of a snake filled with poison.’’ And, in order to neutralise this poison, Moon reportedly engaged in ‘’blood separation’’ in which the Good Reverend (Moon) graciously purified females’ innately sinful organs by sticking his manhood in them.

And, luckily for the Yankees, they have viable institutions capable of dealing with such perverts and Moon wasn’t spared either.  In Africa of the Mugabes, these malcontents roam and prey on victims in broad day light without repercussion.

As recent as 2016, it is alleged that congregants had to fork out as much as US$1 500.00 for ‘’solutions’’ in a one- to- one engagement with either Magaya or Makandiwa for those seeking spiritual solutions to their problems. Rumour is it that it’s almost impossible to have access to these papas without making the requisite payments outside normal church services. 

Indeed, the gullible already drunk from opium never subject such practices to scrutiny by referring to scriptures as Proverbs 14:15 teaches, ‘’The gullible believe everything they’re told, the prudent sift and weigh every word.’’  The Bible is quite clear on such naivety by congregants, but, alas, who listens?

It’s reported that three days of stay at Makandiwa’s Life Haven costs the congregant a whopping $300.00 and for executive lodgings, one forks out $900.00 for three days while Magaya’s PHD charges a minimum of $300.00 with executive accommodation in Marlborough costing up to $900.00.

And, with due respect, these charges are demanded from an impoverished folk who have been reduced to paupers by Mugabe’s poor governance. In Nigeria, some of Chris Oyakhilome’s church members of his Christ Embassy Church have even gone as far as stealing just to meet their Papa’s demands.

The case of Lawrence Agada, an assistant pastor who was a cashier with the Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Towers is a typical example. Agada donated cash gifts to the church totalling N39 million allegedly stolen from his employers. In the same fashion, another church member, Gbenga Kehinde, an assistant bank manager with the now defunct Eko International Bank, drunk from the same opium as Agada, is alleged to have stolen N40 million from his employers and donated N10 million to the church in order to receive blessings from God.

The case of Mr Upenyu Mashangwa and his spouse Blessing who are suing United Family International Church leader Emmanuel Makandiwa for US$6,5 million over alleged ‘’fake prophecies, fraud and defamation’’ is a tip of the ice-berg and it will not be the last.

It has to be acknowledged that prosperity gospel is not just a bad theology but a form of oppression and exploitation. It is no wonder that Botswana has started clamping down on these bogus prophets, with Shepherd Bushiri of the Enlightened Christian Gathering ( ECG) prohibited from entering the country without a visa. In the same way, the Zambian government in a bid to clamp down on this menace is alleged to have deported Uebert Angel, aka, Uebert Madzanire of Spirit Embassy from the northern neighbour.

As Godfridah Sumaili,  the  Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs argues, Zambia is no haven for fake prophets and pastors whose main mission is to extort monies from poor Zambians for spiritual attention. The minister argues that it is wrong and daylight robbery for Uebert Angel to demand from Zambians desperate for spiritual attention K2,000 at a conference dubbed Millionaire Academy and that only men of God preaching the true word of gospel will be allowed in the country.

In contrast, Zimbabwe has become the breeding ground of these thieves with the blessings of the state. This sober stance is in contrast to Zimbabwe’s situation whereby the government condemns these prophets’ activities in forked tongues. In as much as the writer rarely agrees with Mugabe’s views in most occasions, to an extent, the nonagenarian appears to be spot on in his admiration of traditional churches that brought Christianity to the country as opposed to the prosperity gospel that preys on the vulnerable.

As the 31st of December draws closer, Pastor Prime Kufa, Emmanuel Makandiwa’s spokesperson is already busy preparing for New Year Cross Over Prayer Nights and this time worshippers will be urged to release money in the nines of digits as opposed to sevens in order for them to obtain blessings from God, failure of which the heavens will not open.  That is the way it is as central government collapses and those with ears let them hear.

William Muchayi is a pro-democracy campaigner who can be contacted on [email protected]