Newsmaker – Pastor Lesego Daniel: People are going to fly

2014-10-06 08:00

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Xolani Mbanjwa joins the faithful at Rabboni Centre Ministries in Ga-Rankuwa – and feels very ­uncomfortable yet strangely at home

‘You ain’t seen nothing yet. People are going to fly.” With these words, Pastor Lesego Daniel begins his Sunday sermon.

It’s 8am when things kick off at Rabboni Centre Ministries. The service will continue into the night.

The car park is packed with luxury vehicles. There is cheering, singing and screaming from inside the church.

It sounds as if I’m about to walk into a Fela Kuti concert.

A typical preacher’s kid, I spent my teenage years in the Evangelistic Mission. From there, we visited different churches for worship. And at Rabboni, there are many things that feel normal to me – or familiar, rather.

A bookshop at the entrance sells Rabboni products: a two-year-old glossy magazine at R50 a copy, DVDs of sermons for R20, pens, cups, bumper stickers and T-shirts. There are also tiny bottles of “Treasures of Darkness” holy oil for R30.

You rub this on to any part of the body that needs “healing”. If you don’t want to buy anything, you can bring items for “blessing” by Daniel: I see lunch boxes, books, Salticrax and cool drinks.

There’s an information desk, a tuck shop and a library manned by ushers in blue T-shirts who ask congregants to fill seats from the front row.

For two-and-a-half hours, various pastors deliver sermons. They encourage worshippers to get out of poverty because “God wants you to prosper”, and they urge people to avoid sex before marriage.

The church choir, dressed in grey and white, sings beautifully between sermons.

By 11am, more than 2?000 people – from as far afield as Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, as well as all nine South African provinces – fill the church.

Children between the ages of five and 13 have their own church and service.

Daniel, wearing one of the shirts with high collars he loves, arrives around noon with visiting pastor and “prophet” “Dr” Vaughn Hutchinson.

Hutchinson appears in a DVD played for the congregation on eight flat screen TVs inside the church.

He is seen “making a prophecy” about a man from Ga-Rankuwa who is blessed with “anointing and powers never seen before”.

The church claims the two men did not know each other before Hutchinson’s prophecy.

It is this DVD, one of several played repeatedly today, that the church uses to prove Daniel is “a man of God who was revealed through another prophet”.

There are also clips showing Rabboni parishioners running over each other to eat grass at Daniel’s instruction.

The congregation roars with laughter, and keeps laughing at a clip showing worshippers rushing to drink petrol with him.

From the pulpit, Daniel jokes that many of his flock aren’t here because “they drank all the petrol in their cars”.

Some congregants swear by the strange, positively dangerous “treatment”.

Nomfundo Dube (22) from Brits in North West testifies that drinking petrol in August healed her terrible heart pains.

I attend another service on Thursday. Daniel moves his hand over a heavily pregnant woman’s belly.

She says her baby is kicking and “laughing” in response to his gestures.

Some moments are really disturbing. Every time Daniel says the word “general”, people throw themselves to the ground and scream, cursing the “Devil” to leave their bodies. Some have to be restrained so they don’t hurt themselves.

Boitumelo says she was a nonbeliever when she visited the church two years ago.

“A few years back, I was in a car accident and for a long time I could not turn my head to the right. I joined a line to go to pray but after he finished praying and I was about to take my seat, he called me back. Without me saying a word to him, he repeatedly pushed his finger on the spot where my neck was injured.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was cured. I could turn my neck. But I wondered how he knew because I was not wearing a brace and I had that problem for years,” says Boitumelo, who won’t give her surname

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