Tag: TB Joshua

Row in SA over bodies of Nigeria church victims

(Pic: emmanuel.tv)
(Pic: emmanuel.tv)

A row has erupted in South Africa over the identity of one of the bodies of dozens of South Africans who were killed in the collapse of a Nigerian church building last year.

One family suspects they were given the wrong body and has commissioned private DNA tests and warned they would want the “right” corpse exhumed if their suspicions were correct.

Phumzile Mkhulisi (47) died when a guesthouse attached to tele-evangelist TB Joshua’s church collapsed on September 12 last year, killing 116 people, 81 of them South Africans.

Her body was among the last batch of  11 repatriated to South Africa on February 5 after months of delays attributed partly to waiting for DNA tests.

“I told the other families not to go ahead with their burials because none of us were sure we had the right bodies,” her brother Lwandle Mkhulisi told AFP Monday.

The Mkhulisi family ignored a warning not to open the body bag they were given because the corpse could be in a deteriorated state.

Lwandle Mkhulisi said the body inside did not have a gap in the teeth like his sister did and had no skin from which they could identify birth marks or scars.

“They (the government) told us that the bodies may be infected with Ebola because Nigeria is close to Sierre Leone,” Mkhulisi said.

“Sierre Leone is very far from Nigeria…. They are lying to us.”

Dr Munro Marx, who handled the DNA verification process on behalf of the Nigerian authorities, said he was “100 percent satisfied” that the DNA profiles of Mkhulisi’s two children matched the numbered sample belonging to her.

Marx, head of Stellenbosch University’s Unistel Medical Laboratories in South Africa, said the lab had nothing to do with handling the body bags but it was “highly unlikely” that any bodies were swapped.

The Mkhulusi family’s private DNA test results are due in two weeks.

An inquest into the building collapse is under way in Lagos.

Officials who have testified blamed the collapse on structural failure and said building plans for the guesthouse were never approved.

Survivor of Nigeria church collapse tells of days of darkness

Beds used by guests are seen near an excavator at the site of the collapsed Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos on September 17 2014. (Pic: Reuters)
Beds used by guests are seen near an excavator at the site of the collapsed Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos on September 17 2014. (Pic: Reuters)

Lying in the rubble of the guesthouse, only able to tell if it was night or day through a tiny crack, Lindiwe Ndwandwe heard the screams of others beneath the debris slowly turn silent.

For five days the 33-year-old was trapped inside a toilet next to the dining hall of the collapsed Synagogue Church of All Nations, breathing only through a small hole in the wreckage.

In the end, she was forced to drink her own urine to survive.

“It’s like a dream to me that really, it’s me that came out from here,” the South African told AFP on Saturday as she surveyed the remains of the church in the Nigerian city of Lagos.

“I don’t believe it. The tears that I cry, it’s because I don’t believe.”

A total of 86 people were killed and dozens more left trapped when the guesthouse attached to the church run by Nigerian preacher TB Joshua collapsed on September 12.

Some 350 South Africans were thought to be visiting the church in the Ikotun neighbourhood of the megacity of Lagos when the three-storey building came down during construction work.

Joshua, one of Nigeria’s best-known evangelical preachers referred to by followers across the world as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, on Sunday pledged to go to South Africa to meet survivors and their families.

He observed a minute of silence at his weekly morning service, and said he would “be travelling to South Africa to meet people from South Africa and other nations… in memory of martyrs of faith”.

Legal action
But South Africa’s largest opposition party on Sunday said it will push the government to launch a class action against the church, where 84 of its nationals lost their lives.

Democratic Alliance shadow foreign minister Stevens Mokgalapa said the fact that rescue workers complained that staff at the church had impeded their work in the immediate aftermath of the disaster meant there could be cause for legal action.

“The DA believes that there is now enough evidence for the South African government to, at the very least, explore the possibility of a class action suit against the (church) on behalf of the affected families,” Mokgalapa said in a statement.

“It stands to reason that the church and its members may be criminally liable for the death of a number of South Africans who could have been rescued from the rubble if rescue work was speedily permitted.”

South Africa is sending a plane to Lagos to retrieve survivors of the disaster, media outlets reported.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan visited the church on Saturday and promised to investigate the cause of the tragedy.

He said he would hold talks with stakeholders in the construction industry on how to prevent such a thing happening again, expressing his condolences to South African President Jacob Zuma.

Nigeria: TB Joshua under pressure over fatal church collapse

(Pic: emmanuel.tv)
TB Joshua (Pic: emmanuel.tv)

Popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist TB Joshua was under mounting pressure on Wednesday to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse that claimed at least 67 lives.

TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations had so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the Lagos state government and emergency services said.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma announced on Tuesday that 67 of his compatriots were killed in the collapse on Friday.

Pretoria’s ambassador to Abuja complained investigators had faced difficulties in getting detailed information on the ground.

In Lagos, rescuers were still picking through the rubble with heavy lifting equipment and using sniffer dogs in the search for survivors.

“The church is not co-operating with emergency workers at all,” said National Emergency Management Authority (Nema) spokesperson for the southwest region, Ibrahim Farinloye.

“For the first three days of the incident, the church people were very hostile and prevented rescue officials access to the site,” he told AFP.

Earlier access may have saved lives, he added, giving the latest toll as 67 with 131 survivors.

South Africa’s ambassador to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, told the eNCA news channel that the death toll was still uncertain.

“The numbers can still either go up or down. We have put more people on the ground to assist us,” he said.

Some five South African church tour groups totalling about 300 people were thought to have been in Lagos at the time, the government said.

Toyin Ayinde, Lagos State commissioner for town planning and urban development, said an investigation would examine Joshua’s claim that a low-flying plane may have been responsible for the collapse.

He told Nigeria’s Channels television they were checking with Lagos international airport, which is just east of the church, about the altitude of planes in the area at the time.

Samples were being taken from the building to determine the material used in the construction.

Initial indications suggested the collapse was caused because extra floors were being added to the building without strengthening foundations.

Ayinde said Joshua and his staff had not yet met engineers and representatives of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, which was affecting their ability to disclose accurate information.

Of penises, politics and Pentecostalism in Zimbabwe

We are just past the first weekend of 2014 and here in Zimbabwe, newspaper stands are already brimming with tabloid-style headlines of scandalous news – of the penile sort – to do with former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and miracle-working Pentecostal prophet, Emmanuel Makandiwa.

Yesterday, Zimbabwe’s news media revealed that Makandiwa, founder of the increasingly popular United Family International Church (UFIC), had performed a penis-enhancing miracle on a man from Namibia at a New Year’s Day service in Harare. The man is reported to have travelled to Zimbabwe in search of help for his penis which he is quoted as saying was the size of a two-year-old’s. He added that the problem was affecting his love life, and therefore his prospects of finding a wife.

“First month grow, second month grow, third month grow, fourth month grow, fifth month ummm stop,” Makandiwa is said to have commanded the man’s infantile penis which, I must assume, is still expanding exponentially as you read this.

On Saturday, the day before this revelation, the press was again teeming with phallic-related news; in this instance, an exposé of trouble in the un-paradise that is Tsvangirai’s love life. Apparently he and his current wife, Elizabeth Macheka, are living separately due to a range of unresolved issues, including those of the “sensitive personal” variety. The public jury is out and judgments ranging from erectile dysfunctional disorder to hexes over the former PM’s “male member” are moving around freely. Tsvangirai has, however, refuted any such claims, stating that he is fit on all counts.

Former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his wife Elizabeth Macheka (Pic: AFP)
Former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his wife Elizabeth Macheka (Pic: AFP)

Ironically, reports suggest Macheka packed up and left the marriage home during a visit Tsvangirai made to seek the counsel of Nigerian megastar prophet TB Joshua, who in 2012 gained cred for his prediction of the death of Malawian leader Bingu wa Mutharika. Well, let’s say he predicted the death of an African leader who was old and unwell, to the silent hopes of many.

And so we, the general Zimbabwean populace, find ourselves having spirited Twitter, Facebook and offline debates, enthralled by speculation about two men’s penises. Actually, make that three men as people are now also seemingly curious about how endowed Makandiwa must be if he can work such miracles on others.

A weekend victory for phallicism, I say. And, I fear, a portent of what is to come in 2014 for Zimbabwe.

As prospects for political change continue to decline, it is the rise of Pentecostalism and tales of the supernatural that seem to have filled the void in the collective imagination of most Zimbabweans. In fact, the myriad problems ordinary Zimbabweans face – such as crippling poverty and lack of access to social amenities – seem to correlate with the growth and popularity of charismatic Christian churches offering instant relief from anything from bankruptcy and HIV to unhealthy addictions… if you only just believe.

Early last year former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono convened a press conference with Makandiwa and his fellow popular prophet, Uebert Angel, to publicly announce that the two men had not flouted any financial regulations by delivering ‘miracle money’ said to have inexplicably appeared in congregants’ personal bank accounts. And with that controversial move, the already blurred line between the church and the state in Zimbabwe grew murkier.

While a penis-enlarging miracle might seem like child’s play (that pun was really not intended!) for a man of such influence, a man who has even promised to perform the Christ-like feat of walking on water, it does epitomise the vulnerability of so many Zimbabweans who remain desperate for a change in their personal fortunes.  Desperate for hope; for at least one pleasure, one relief.

And the commonality of the desperation is compounded by Tsvangirai’s pursuit of the same from TB Joshua.

Just think about Tsvangirai’s case a bit more deeply, if you will. Here is a man, aged 61, married as many times as he has lost in his bid to become Zimbabwe’s elected president (three), who makes a trek to a death-predicting spiritual leader in pursuit of answers and solutions to the problems beleaguering his personal and political aspirations. In a continuation of the comedy of errors that is his love life, he returns home to find his wife gone and, a few weeks later, speculations about his impotence all over the media.

What hope should the ordinary Zimbabwean hold onto, therefore?

Tsvangirai’s manhood may have come under literal scrutiny this weekend, but the truth is that it has been inspected – in a figurative sense – since July’s presidential election and his tepid response to a resounding loss, albeit a loss that seems to have been compounded by many factors out of his control.  More and more, Zimbabweans are beginning to feel that he is not the man to deliver them to the ‘promised land’, and that he himself needs to start chanting his MDC-T party’s slogan of chinja maitiro (change your ways) and step away from its leadership.

I will end my analysis with a final irony. It is quite interesting to me that even though much of Zimbabwe’s mainstream press is alight with all these stories about phalluses, few – if any – can bring themselves from the comfort of their euphemisms to actually call the “male member” what it is. A penis.

And this is a perfect metaphor of the times. A fascination with the scandalous and supernatural and yet an inability, a systematised reserve or fear, of calling things as they are. A diversion of the “male member” at the expense of critical, constructive and progressive debate about the male members of society who still very much control the structures that govern our daily lives from the radical prophets to the un-radical politicians.

It should strike us all as unusual that a phallocentric culture cannot bring itself to name the symbols upon which its power is premised.

Indeed, this is the present tragedy of Zimbabwe.

Fungai Machirori is a blogger, editor, poet and researcher. She runs Zimbabwe’s first web-based platform for women, Her Zimbabweand is an advocate for using social media for consciousness-building among Zimbabweans. Connect with her on Twitter

Cashing in on the lure of super-pastor TB Joshua

In Africa’s largest metropolis, the district of Ikotun Egbe in Lagos has turned into a boomtown. The draw? Temitope Balogun Joshua, one of Nigeria’s richest “super-pastors”, whose church attracts 50 000 worshippers weekly – more than the combined number of visitors to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.

TB Joshua. (Pic: EmmanuelTV)
TB Joshua. (Pic: EmmanuelTV)

Seeking promises of prosperity and life-changing spiritual experiences, visitors flock from around the globe. Enterprising Lagos residents – those not turfed out by landlords turning their properties into hotels – have transformed the rundown area into a hotbed of business.

On a Saturday afternoon, traffic swirls around the four-storey, giant-columned Synagogue Church of All Nations. Delegates are already pouring in before the following day’s service. “They should really build a branch in South Africa – it’s a long way to come and the hotels here are so-so,” said Mark, a sun-burnt businessman from Johannesburg, accompanied by two friends from Botswana.

As the church’s palm tree-lined entrance gives way to a maze of skinny, unpaved roads, knots of touts materialise. “In one year I made enough money to buy my first car,” said Chris, using a tattered hotel brochure to mop his brow. He is paid 100 naira (about 40 pence) for each client he brings in.

Sparkling new hotels rise incongruously among the shacks. At one, with a logo suspiciously similar to the Sheraton’s, a new chef has recently been employed. “He can cook food from Singapore, because we were having a lot of guests from there who struggle with Nigerian food,” said the manager, Ruky, at a reception desk framed by pictures of TB Joshua.

Tony Makinwa said most of his laundromat profits came from tourists. “God has favoured my business. People come here and fall in love with the place and overstay their visits,” he said.

Also doing a roaring trade are the international calling centres with foreign visitor discounts, the clothes shops offering outfits to celebrate miracles, and the plastic chair rentals that cater for church spillovers.

Isolo’s dirt streets are punctured by unfinished barn-like buildings as dozens of other churches offer all-day worship services. Almost as many mosques dot the area. Islam and Christianity are growing at blistering paces across Africa, with Nigeria home to the continent’s most populous mix of both faiths.

Money-changer Sidi Bah travelled thousands of miles from Mali to continue his trade here. “I came because I heard many people from many countries visit. In one day I can change six or seven different types of currency,” he said, adding: “There are more mosques here than in my village in [Muslim] Mali.”

Miracle-promising Pentecostal churches took root across the continent in the 1980s, as African economies were battered by falling world commodity prices. Migrant poured into slums in search of jobs and dreams.

Ruky has converted her cramped home into a 20-bed lodging where mainly rural workers stay for 800 naira a night. Mattresses are half-price. “If you are sick like me you have no job so you are used to sleeping on the floor anyhow,” said Andrew Olagbele whose spine was crushed by a car accident, lying on a mattress in a crammed room. “I pray the Lord will touch me tomorrow so I can walk again.”

As dusk sets in, cars continue streaming in. A man hanging from the open door of a car thundering gospel songs waves copies of homemade CDs for sale. Denis Kokou and his wife, a baby on her hip, look on with weary smiles. “This is our first time coming from [regional neighbour] Togo. We are so happy to be here with our daughter.”

Monica Mark for the Guardian