Charlatans or men of God?

17Dec 2017
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Charlatans or men of God?
  • The rise of self-proclaimed prophets in Tanzania

SOME claim to have powers to perform a range of miracles from healing the sick, curing AIDS and even raising the dead.

The Christian faith in Tanzania is currently experiencing the rapid emergence of "prophet of God" or "man of God" churches.

And dozens of self-proclaimed prophets or messengers are luring thousands of Tanzanians to their churches each week.

Followers make tithes and other offerings in hope of winning blessings from up above.

Most of these mushrooming churches do not have proper governing boards, so there is little financial accountability.

Some governments and organisations in Africa are now starting to think these new Pentecostal churches should be held accountable.

In neighbouring Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta last year called for the regulation of churches and the new “pastorpreneurs.”

The Kenyan government says the move is aimed at stamping out bogus churches.

"They are thieves and not preachers. We have to consult and know how to remove them," the president was quoted as saying by Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation.

In October this year, a Dar es Salaam-based pastor, who dreams of driving a luxury Range Rover sports utility vehicle (SUV), proclaimed that he can help millions of Tanzanians to "break the curse of walking on foot" through the power of prayer.

Do you want to drive your dream car? Now you can, according to Pastor Tetemeko (earthquake), who claims that Satan deep in the Indian Ocean have cast an evil spell on millions of Tanzania who currently walk on foot because they do not own cars.

The self-proclaimed man of God claims that anyone can do away with the "curse" of walking on foot through divine intervention.

The pastor organised special prayers at his church located at the Tegeta suburb in the city and told a packed congregation that he will "break their curse of walking on foot."

Pastor Tetemeko told worshippers to go to his church with photos of their dream cars and the motor vehicles will manifest themselves in real life though his prayers.

"Did you know that many people's cars are being held by Satan at sea?" The pastor said in a promotional poster that was widely circulated on social media platforms over the past few weeks, calling on worshippers to throng his church.

Hundreds of worshippers, with pictures of their dream cars in hand, responded to the call by attending the special prayers at the Ukumbozi Church on 29 October this year.

Although the worshippers that flocked to the church were predominantly women, all age groups and both members of the gender were present.


Wishing paper cars into life

An on-the-spot check by The Guardian on Sunday at the fully packed church saw crowds starting to arrive at the church early in the morning.

By 10am, the church was full to the brim, with hopeful worshippers clutching colourful photos of cars.

About one hour into the Sunday service, Pastor Tetemeko told the worshippers to hold up the pictures of their dream cars so he would begin saying special prayers for the papers cars to turn into real vehicles.

From the elderly, youth and even children, everyone seemed eager to "break the curse" of walking on foot.

While the vast majority of the congregation had photos of modest cars, such as standard fuel-efficient card like Toyota Vitz, IST, Rav 4 and Noah, the pastor himself went for opulence.

"Everyone can drive ... this is the car that I want to drive," the pastor told members of the congregation as he displayed the photo of a state-of-the art Range Rover.

"Dying without even owning a cheap car is a curse. Satans are preventing people from owning the cars of their dreams."

Excitement filled the air as hundreds of people cheered at the pastors' remarks while hoisting the photos of their dream cars high above their heads.

The invasion of 'false prophets'

Pastor Tetemeko summoned on the stage a few members of the church, young men and women, in their early 30s who testified about the 'miracle' of having their dreams of owning cars come true.

"Jesus came to earth and suffered for us. He (Jesus) walked on foot so that none of us can suffer like him and walk on foot," said Pastor Tetemeko.

"There are a lot of people who have money but are still walking on foot because they haven't broken the curse of the satans."

But in order for people's dreams of owning cars to become a reality, there is a catch.

Pastor Tetemeko said the dreams can only come true if the worshippers have "true faith" and made monetary contributions to the church.

Like elsewhere in Africa, millions of worshippers in Tanzania are sacrificing their hard-earned money to pay for the luxury lifestyle of their pastors.

This comes as new churches are mushrooming across the country as self-proclaimed "prophets" seek to make a fortune.

Neither the government nor the mainstream religious leaders seem interested in taking on the so-called regious impostors, leaving millions of Tanzanians at the mercy of fraudsters.

Many of the so-called prophets in Tanzania drive posh cars, live in mansions and their children go to expensive schools at the expense of church contributions from their poor worshippers.

Some pastors in Tanzania even own helicopters and live the life of luxury all in the name of religion.

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