I have more money than the government - Kakobe

31Dec 2017
James Kandoya
Guardian On Sunday
I have more money than the government - Kakobe
  • 'PASTORPRENEUR' - Controversial, self-proclaimed Bishop lands in trouble as TRA launches an official investigation to establish the source of his stated fortune

TANZANIA Revenue Authority (TRA) announced yesterday that it has launched an official tax investigation to establish the source of the self-proclaimed personal fortune of 'Bishop' Zachary Kakobe after the controversial cleric publicly boasted to have "more money than the entire Tanzanian government.

A video clip of the self-proclaimed Bishop of the Full Gospel Bible Fellowship has emerged, showing the Dar es Salaam-based preacher speaking to his congregation from his church's pulpit where he bragged about having a bigger personal fortune than the government's total financial resources.

"I don't need money -- I have more money than the government. No one can bribe me ... If cabinet ministers don't have money, they can come to me and I will give them some loans," Kakobe told his cheering worshippers at his Dar es Salaam-based church.

"I don't need to go and drink tea at State House ... there's nothing special there, those tea leaves are not made of gold. They are the same as any other tea leaves from Mufindi."

Kakobe's controversial claims about his 'vast personal fortune' have surfaced just days after he directly criticised President John Magufuli's leadership in a Christmas sermon.

He accused the government of "quietly turning the country into a one-state rule by systematically banning political activity."

However, to demonstrate that the government was taking Kakobe's words seriously, TRA Commissioner Charles Kichere personally addressed a press conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday and announced the launch of an official tax investigation to establish the source of the cleric's stated fortune for tax collection purposes.

Kichere played an audio clip to journalists of Kakobe declaring that he has more money than the entire government.

"If one individual claims to have more money than the whole government, as tax collectors we are very keen to establish the source of that wealth and its tax implications," he said.

"Our officers will pay Bishop Kakobe a visit over the next few days and we hope that he will cooperate with them as we seek to establish the source of his wealth."

Kichere said while church offerings are not taxed, TRA wants to verify if Kakobe has other sources of income for tax purposes.

"Although Kakobe says he has more money than the government, we have no records of him actually paying any taxes. That is why we want to find out where his fortune comes from," said TRA's top boss.

The government warned on Thursday this week that it would revoke the registration of religious organisations that "mix religion and politics."

Tanzania's constitution protects freedom of worship, but religious organisations must be registered at the Ministry of Home Affairs for them to get a licence to operate legally.

"Recently, some leaders of (religious) societies have been using their sermons to analyse political issues, which is contrary to the law," the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Projest Rwegasira, said in a statement.

"Any violation of the law could lead to cancellation of the registration of the concerned religious society."

The warning was issued just days after Kakobe criticised the government, saying it was closing democratic space.

Kakobe boasted in his sermon that two previous attempts to shut down his church failed and that he would continue to speak out without fear against the country's "rulers, president and ministers whenever they commit sin."

Like elsewhere in Africa, Pentecostal churches are booming in Tanzania, with their so-called prosperity preachers promising to wield mystical powers to perform miracles that can cure disease and make their worshippers rich.

But most of these Pentecostal churches, like Kakobe's Full Gospel Bible Fellowship, do not have proper governing boards, so there is little financial accountability. 

Beyond donations, such “pastorpreneurs” also rake in cash by publishing and distributing devotionals and investing in real estate and other businesses.

The word “pastorpreneurs” was coined to describe "entrepreneurs who set up churches as a business venture."

Using faith as a money-maker has been a controversial subject throughout the world, with pastorpreneurs in Tanzania seen living in opulent mansions, driving posh cars while others even own their own helicopters.

Wealthy preachers often live in luxury, but heavenly intervention is not responsible for this kind of success -- all of the money comes out of the pockets of their faithful worshippers.

To the believers who give generously to the church, the preachers of prosperity gospel promise wealth, health and good luck. Those who sow a lot will reap even more later, they say.