THANKS to the laziness of our journalists and academics, we have up to now not been able to get to the bottom of this new African craze of what are oftentimes handsome, slick, pointed-shoe shod, shiny-suit clad prophets in Africa, with their stylishly groomed facial hair, their phalanx of bodyguards, and their expensive cars.
By Esther Makoni
Learnmore Zuze has often sounded the horn of warning, but his has often seemed like a lonely jeremiad in the desert: no follow-up on his propositions from sociologists; no investigative journalism by reporters; and no serious curious search for theological insight resulting in edifying observation by real pastors and prophets as well as social commentators.
Often, the real point of the new African flamboyant prophets (NAFP) is lost in the observers’ supposition that these men are about money and fleecing people. Among the commentariat, supposed wisecracks often revel in telling us that this recently emerged bunch of NAFPs are “profits” and not “prophets”. But the purpose of these entrepreneurs is actually more sinister than that. Money is a secondary, even tertiary concern.
To understand the real purpose of the NAFP, follow their activities, especially in the way they relate to their congregants. Follow and see so-called prophet Lesego Daniel holding out a bottle of petrol in front of his church, with bizarrely contorted congregants shaking uncontrollably before him, and competing to each get a sip of the petrol, and then, on his instruction, several of them dashing off en masse, in a seemingly choreographed and unnaturally uniformised zombi stampede, to go and eat leaves and to graze the grass outside the “church”.
Follow the NAFP’s exploits and see so-called prophet Penuel Mnguni of Soshanguve stripping the clothes off his women congregants, in “church”, feeding them snakes and human hair, and having men lying prostrate and licking the NAFP’s pointed shoes. You have to look at the pictures on his Facebook page, to believe what you are hearing, but also to understand that something deeply worrisome is happening as the camera catches him high-up in the air about to descend as he gingerly trampolines upon a hapless, young, semi-naked woman.
The horrors go on. There is the shocking clip of the West African “prophet” continually and rhythmically pumping the pregnant stomach of a woman in front of the “church”, with his pointed shoe, in due course raising the tempo of the stepping ritual as if in a bizarre sexual act, and the woman kneels in gratitude before him after the act.
There is so-called prophet Mboro [Paseka Motsoeneng] obeying the call of his name as he engages in weirdly sexualised rituals in “church”, purporting to be healing women who are lying supine, hypnotised before him.
There is the disturbing clip of the charlatan Lesego standing in his “pulpit”, directing pregnant women to have the babies in their wombs “dance for the Lord”, and the pregnant women in the congregation responding by falling into a deep sleep and making apparently involuntary sexualised motions, until abruptly ordered to stop by their hypnotist through his microphone.
There is the rich Nigerian “prophet” slapping a woman hard on her cheek for not answering a question the way he wants it answered, in front of his congregation. There is Victor Kanyari in Kenya bawdily touching a woman’s breast on the “pulpit”, and defying her pitiable search for modesty when she has turned her back to the congregation, by force-turning her back again to face the hall as he continues wantonly to fondle her.
There is so-called prophet Uebert Angel standing congregants in a queue, and then administering a spiritual “two feet” on each of them and tripping them, sweeping them off their feet by kicking hard in the air and inducing a falling response as if he has actually kicked them physically. And then, unaccountably, packing his bags and leaving his congregation soon thereafter to base himself overseas. There is the swashbuckling Malawian Shepherd Bushiri, performing a bizarre levitation act, and being anything but a sherpherd to his flock.
Indeed the list goes on. Even the most basic search for google images of “African prophets” is enough to produce pictures that make one want to weep for the continent. But as long as our lazy commentators focus on the assumption that the new African prophetic craze, this NAFP phenomenon, is chiefly about money, they miss a major point. What the above is about is not people who have been coached to help a crook make money from a congregation. Nobody has been coached to come and accept to be fed a snake, or to be jumped upon.
It is about the reality that there is indeed some kind of spiritual power that these invariably young actors have acquired. That much is factually evident to any serious and intellectually honest observer. The question is what power that is. With the right angle of focus onto the picture, it is easy to see Satan’s concentrated efforts to invade the church space, and to seek to humiliate Christ through the instrumentalisation, denigration, cheapening, enslavement and animalisation of the precious souls that Christ died for. That was Satan’s quest when he asked Jesus to kneel before him 2 000 years ago. That is his revamped quest today in much of Africa.
If you understand that, a lot of things begin to make sense. You begin to understand the hierarchies of satanic spiritual representativeness in the phenomenon of spiritual fatherhood that powers this new prophetic movement: us the faithful kneeling or lying prostrate before papa; papa himself kneeling before his own papa when he comes to replenish the spiritual charge in his son; papa’s papa kneeling before his own papa; and papa’s great grandpa, in his turn, secretly worshipping before Nana Kwaku Bonsam and other wholesalers of this sordid spiritual trade.
In this chain of representation, Satan’s spirit gets effective representation down the hierarchy. The long colourful untucked Mandela-like shirts become a cover over the waistline, in case there is unpredictable shifts by the symbolic serpent coiled around the NAFP’s waistline, the witching deceiver’s slithering familiar, linking its wearer into the Satanic spirit that induces the shaking, shivering, falling, worship, disorientation and frenzy of the faithful.
If not the long shirt, it must be a buttoned up, tailored, expensive suit, and the overall NAFP look is so thoroughly modern that if we are casual observers, we cannot reconcile it with our idea of the backward and pre-computer age spiritism associated with the stories of old haggard women’s witchcraft that we grew up hearing.
And the Satanic chain of worship also becomes represented in spiritualised objects such as wristbands and oils, and other paraphernalia that take away the focus from Christ, to the presumed protective abilities of the prophet father.
So, by their covered waistlines ye shall know them. You shall know them by their waistlines not because they are fat from eating tithes and offerings, but because they are well-groomed, well-packaged, lookable waistlines, convincingly well-covered, richly attired, testimony to the great deception that Lucifer excelled in since he invented deceit and dissembling in the cosmos.
Money is a secondary issue, or even a non-issue, because this particular breed of prophets actually only need the little money that congregants pay in offerings for one purpose: to disguise what is really the most elementary feat for those in the trade: the unnatural acquisition of filthy lucre. The congregants’ offerings disguise the source of the stupendous amounts of money that the NAFP can, of course, easily acquire through unnatural means.
When everybody except the cameramen and hangers-on are falling as the “prophets” wave their hands in those vast spaces, that cannot be because everybody — including the innocent and ordinary person who has walked into the “church” for the first time, from the street — has been coached to act a part in a massive fraudulent spectacle to enrich the “prophet”. That’s a lazy explanation. It is a nonsensical idea; it is simply improbable.
What is actually happening here is that something indeed is happening, and that something is stemming from the Luciferian powers that the “prophet” acquired: his ability to operate an extra layer of spiritualism (that is, the invisible reality of spirits) and to deploy it on whom he will. It stands to reason that he can do that, he also can have the obvious spiritual ability to pile up massive amounts of money in his home, thanks to the agency of those spirits.
That is how you then hear Angel saying he is worth $60 million when he can’t tell you where he got the money, other than to vaguely say he is a major international businessman. Or another one recently saying he has an “investment vehicle” worth billions of dollars when you didn’t see the evolution of his capital base, nor any expertise that he at some point acquired in investment management.
The NAFP, as a breed of spiritual entrepreneurs, received a particular and sophisticated form of training. During the time they went to be apprenticed in the trade, in addition to the core tricks of deploying their spiritual shadows, they were taught about dissembling, grooming, and managing public relations in such a way that their personal origins as “men of God” are seldom traceable.
When asked who they are and where they grew up, invariably they will respond by saying it’s not about them, it’s about Jesus. That way, they don’t become the boy next door that I grew up playing brother and sister with, and that today has found God in a manner that should inspire me: no, they become unearthly. They are trained to reel out in a self-serving and distorted way the scriptures that justify or conceal their games: Jesus said you shall do more than I am doing, you shall move mountains; the earth and all the riches in it belong to God, and so on. And they are trained in selling hope.
They are ambitious and daring. They tend to name their churches in a way that has an “international” dimension. They might slot in the word “spirit” somewhere, without saying what the spirit in question is. There is nothing fundamentally untruthful, therefore when Angel says his church is Spirit Embassy, only that it depends what spirit we are talking about.
And, once set up and in operation, they know how to make the constant empty references to the name of Jesus for deception purposes, not invoking it as the power and life that it is, but practicing before their mirrors a manner of deracinating the name of Jesus and calling it without the meaning of it, but as a play word uttered at the same time as they humiliate and mock Christ’s creation and the faith that He founded 2 000 years ago.
Needless to say not everybody who uses the appellation of “prophet” in Africa is false. Ultimately, it is God only who knows the hearts of each one of us, and who can and will in His time separate the wheat from the chaff. But we are at a strange spiritual moment in Africa, and it is important for those who love God in Africa to seek divine inspiration and discernment to understand who is who, and what is what, and to help hapless pilgrims who are genuinely seeking God from being abused, misled, and to push back against the blatant misrepresentation that we are currently seeing of God’s beautiful and holy character.
Esther Makoni is a sociologist, and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org