Prophets for profit
Every few months a new horrific story emerges about so-called ‘prophets’, who have either put their worshippers in danger, or stolen from them. Most recently an image of a ‘prophet’ spraying Doom on members of his congregants went viral on social media and caused national outrage. But the list of these so-called pastors and prophets, who make their followers engage in bizarre and dangerous activities, is lengthy.
Over the past few years, South Africa has turned into a playground for charismatic church pastors. ‘Snake pastor’, Penuel Mnguni made headlines after feeding snakes to his congregation. He operates from his End Times Ministries church from a tent in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria. In June, images emerged on Facebook showing him driving over two of his congregants. News 24 reported at the time that Mnguni drove over two of his followers and ordered them to stand up. They stood up and danced along with other congregants saying that they feel no pain. Following the incident, Chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva spoke to Enca, “Our reaction to his activities is that this is a harmful religious practice.” She continued saying that a summons would be sent to Mnguni.
Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng, also known as Pastor Mboro, of the Incredible Happenings Ministry, claimed that he went to heaven, took photos with his smartphone and tried to sell the images for R5 000. Pastor Lethebo Rabalago of the Mount Zion Church in Zebediele, Limpopo, claimed that he could heal and cleanse sins by dropping heavy rocks on his congregants’ backs. He is said to have received the instructions from God.
These are pastors that preach prosperity, and encourage their followers to pray and ask for money, cars, fame, business and clothes, which contradicts the bible verse which reads, “False Messiahs and false prophets will appear, they will perform great miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s chosen people”. All this has been prophesised in the bible before but people are still falling for it. Are we that desperate?
The issue of so-called pastors and prophets that follow their own Godless desires and make profit in the name of religion is ripe in Africa, but it is a challenge for the CRL Rights Commission to act on such cases because people regard themselves as followers of God and do not see themselves as victims no matter the dangers they are exposed to. They have insisted, however a regulatory body should be established for churches in South Africa in order to protect congregants from being exposed to harmful ‘healing’ methods by pastors like Mboro, Mnguni and Rabalago.
In the most recent case of the ‘Doom pastor’ Rabalago, for instance, it was noted that charges could not be brought against the pastor because none of his congregants had complained. Rabalago runs the Mount Zion General Assembly in Limpopo Province and claimed that the domestic product could get rid of cancer and HIV.
The South African constitution stipulates, “everyone has a right to a religion” however pastors do as they please because their followers are not complaining.
According to the 2001 national census, 79.8% of South Africans are Christian with the African Zion Christian churches holding the lion’s share of the faith. However the most vulnerable communities are driven into the grubby hands of these dangerous pastors and the lack of responsibility by government which means that we will only see more of these fake pastors.