Prophets of doom: A sordid tale of manipulation and money

ProphetShepherd Bushiri is pictured outside the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court this week. Bushiri and his wife, Mary, are both accused of money laundering and fraud, and were granted R100 000 bail each Picture: Mpumelelo Buthelezi
ProphetShepherd Bushiri is pictured outside the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court this week. Bushiri and his wife, Mary, are both accused of money laundering and fraud, and were granted R100 000 bail each Picture: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

As one scammer’s supporters chant and roll on the streets for his release, Modidima Mannya explores naivety, manipulation and exploitation

Let them eat grass. Let them eat snakes. Let them eat rodents.

Let them drink and wash with “holy” water. Let them be lubricated with “holy” oil.

These are the words of loyal delusional believers of the prophets of doom who have invaded our republic in recent times.

Their leaders are called “daddy”, “papa”, “man of God”.

One went as far as selling them the “blood of Jesus”. Jesus died well over 2 000 years ago, but as this prophet has it, he can get and sell his blood to the gullible and ignorant followers.

Not even the Bible, which is the basis and authority of the Christian faith, makes the slightest suggestion of there ever being a deputy to Jesus Christ.

As the Bible puts it, only through Jesus can people see the kingdom of God. In recent times, it seems new avenues have been discovered to see the kingdom.

One of the prophets is said to have claimed to have gone to hell and had a serious fight with Satan, resulting in the latter losing his life.

The other one had a cell phone in his hand, which he used to call heaven.

A reading of the history of the Roman Catholic Church reveals that way back in 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

An indulgence was a payment to the Catholic Church that purchased an exemption from punishment for some types of sins.

The idea of indulgences is reported to have given the priest enormous power, while at the same time enabling the rich to secure high positions in the church and satisfy their beliefs that they would go to heaven and attain salvation.

In essence, the proposition was that some priest, a human being like everyone else, had gained access to God and/or had been delegated with some of the powers of God and could perform some of those duties, prime among which was the forgiveness of sin.

At the heart of what clearly was a well-thought-out marketing gimmick was to collect as much money as possible from the gullible, rich and poor alike.

Shepherd and Mary Bushiri

The onset of these new prosperity churches is more or less based on the same concept.

In this case, people are seeking prosperity without lifting a finger.

In their belief, these fellows called prophets have direct access and power to have their demands for this prosperity met.

To that, of course, is attached a price tag of sorts.

It is this belief that has exposed so many to the illusion that surrendering their hard-earned assets and income to these “prophets” will create better lives for them.

As fate would have it, most, if not all, of these so-called miracles are nothing more than a fluke to scam money out of the gullible and to create real prosperity for the prophets and their inner circle.

The fact that a fellow can travel from Malawi with only a Bible in his hand and in no time own a jet and a dozen properties in this country on its own tells a story.

The trial of one of them in the Port Elizabeth High Court has revealed sordid details of wholesale abuse of young girls at the hands of this “man of God”.

Even as these revelations come out, the faithful and loyal shamelessly stand in his defence.

Shouts of “fire, fire, fire”, the war cry of this otherwise criminal syndicate, can be heard all the time.

As they say, money makes the mare go. As it turns out, behind this sordid tale is the question of wealth accumulation and exploitation.

It appears that there are far more ways to make money than through hard work.

All that is needed is to identify who is gullible, who can be captured into some weird unattainable belief.

It appears that corruption involving the church is as old as the corruption found in politics.

Central to both is manipulation and money.

It is difficult to understand how people get trapped in this game of manipulation and belief, which clearly has no head or tail.

One wonders whether there is much difference between some politicians and some of these religious leaders.

Is it that the followers are just gullible souls or that the leaders master the art of manipulation?

In recent days we have seen interesting events unfold. A so-called prophet and his so-called prophetess wife were arrested by the Hawks on allegations, among others, of money laundering.

The Bible records that Jesus once took drastic action against those doing business in the house of the Lord.

Now the allegations against that prophet and his prophetess wife relate to money derived from “business” done in their church.

The money in question probably relates to offerings and other monies collected for dishing out “miracles” and other fanatic activities.

Out of this money grew what appears to be a growing business empire.

The reaction of their followers and supporters was to blame the police, threatening all sorts of implications for potential witnesses.

Not unexpected, Major 1, as they call him, is wholly innocent and, as some went further to suggest, a victim of being black.

Well, the allegations against him relate to ripping off black people. It may be that if it’s black people who must be ripped off, it is no serious matter.

A few months ago, another Major 1 type found himself taking cover in the female toilet of the Port Elizabeth airport.

He later tried his best in vain to secure bail and have the judge presiding over his matter recuse himself. He is now heading to the Constitutional Court.

In the meantime, we were told that some unknown thing will be unleashed on us for harassing the man of God. We are still waiting.

Then came the Zondo commission revelations. Those implicated and their loyal followers were quick, like the church followers of Major 1 and his equivalent, Timothy Omotoso, to point to some conspiracy.

One of them in particular was outstanding in pointing to the concept of the fishers of the corrupt and the start of wisdom.

According to him, he apologises for being associated with Bosasa and disappointing those who hold him in high regard.

At the same time he takes issue with the fishers of the corrupt. He goes on to explain how, in the past, they just brushed aside any allegation suggesting malfeasance on their part.

It seems like in the true biblical sense, their Damascus moment has arrived, where they are now able to admit the fact of the malfeasance.

This he calls the start of wisdom. Wisdom it may be indeed that you cannot lie to yourself forever. The past denials were simply a lie to self more than anything.

The past lie of indulgences is no different to the present lie of a better life or prosperity.

The commonality lies in the fact of financial benefit to these supposed victims, who are the scammers and the corrupt.

In their little worlds they are the victims, and not those they lied to.

The further commonality is that they always have an audience that is forever prepared to clap hands for them.

The reality is that they are now at the real stage of the start of wisdom.

One of them has already been unable to secure bail and must already be benefiting from the start of his wisdom as he sits in his prison cell.

The noise of his faithful and loyal has died down.

Bushiri may soon start his wisdom in the same way and his loyal and faithful will soon realise that their protests are but a health activity. They are merely exercising.

As state capture commission chairperson Judge Raymond Zondo threw down the gauntlet by imploring government to start acting on the revelations at his commission, those involved in the looting may also start with their wisdom as they don the prestigious orange garb, the national symbol of our thieves and crooks.

Mannya is a former public servant and an advocate


What are the similarities and differences between corruption in the church and that in politics?

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