Robert Mbatha, 40, appears unconcerned about the charges levelled against his elder brother, Paul Nthenge Makenzi, whom the state accuses of being behind Malindi’s Shakahola massacre, which killed more than 110 people.
Mbatha told The Standard that Makenzi is a humble man to the core and that he will simply get out of the current situation because he is innocent.
“Those are issues I know he’ll deal with. I do not believe he killed those people retrieved from the forest,” Mbatha said, adding that Makenzi, like other men of God who have walked the earth’s surface, was being tested.
Mbatha said Makenzi followed in their father’s footsteps, the late Kitivo Makenzi, who was a preacher in protestant churches in Shimba Hills Kwale. In the 1970s, the patriarch moved from Kibauni village in Yathui near Ikalaasa Town, Mwala constituency in Machakos county, to Shimba Hills in Kwale county.
The senior Makenzi married two wives in Kwale. Pastor Makenzi’s mother gave birth to seven sons and three daughters. The second wife gave birth to two children. Mbatha, who works menial jobs in Malindi to support his three children and wife, says young Makenzi is the family’s fifth child.
“We were born and raised in Kwale in a religious family. My elder brother attended Mwalewa Primary School before moving on to Lukore Secondary School in Kwale,” Mbatha said. Both schools are located in Vanga, Kwale county.
“After high school, my brother moved to Nairobi and enrolled in a driving school in 1995,” Mbatha added.
Later, Pastor Makenzi moved to Malindi, where he was hosted for a time by his elder sister, the late Kadogo Makenzi, before getting a job as a taxi driver and moving to his own house in the same town’s Kakuyuni area. “When our father died in 2009, my brother opened a church where we worshipped until 2019, when he closed it.
“In Malindi, I used to stay at his place. He later decided to go into preaching.”
However, before launching Good News International (GNI), Mbatha said Makenzi collaborated with other pastors to preach in evangelical churches in Malindi. Other pastors, however, kicked Makenzi out of three churches.
Kicked out of churches
Mbatha said his brother and the other preachers held opposing beliefs. Other pastors, whom he declined to name, believed Makenzi’s doctrine was incendiary and could lead to their arrest.
He said his brother was opposed to modernism, including schooling and treatment, which did not sit well with other pastors in Malindi.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
Makenzi, who was a taxi driver for six years between 1997 and 2003 when he established GNI, has had run-ins with state agencies leading to his arrest in 2017, 2019 and mid-last month.
In 2017, Makenzi was arrested and charged alongside Winnie Alexandre Gandi and Betty Mwaka and jointly charged with the offense of offering basic education in an unregistered institution. Makenzi and his late wife, Joyce Mwikamba, were charged with inciting and indoctrination two years later, in 2019. They requested that their supporters boycott Huduma Namba.
Farmer, not pastor
In mid-March, the preacher who had claimed in an interview that he should be referred to as a farmer rather than a pastor “because I completed God’s work” was jailed again after two boys died of starvation.
Makenzi is back in custody after being apprehended on April 14 when detectives discovered shallow graves in Shakahola. He is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
Makenzi’s contentious sermons against education should be treated as his viewpoint, according to his brother, who added that he never compelled anyone not to send his children to school.
Talking to God himself
“My brother did not undergo any theological training but he claimed to be getting instruction from God himself. He preached in three different churches before opening the GNI,” he said.
Makenzi has seven children from his two late wives, according to Mbatha who added tha Mwikmba was his brother’s last wife.
“He is the one who paid my school fees.” Because my children were in school, I had frequent disagreements with him. “He used to say I’m one of his followers who didn’t follow his teaching,” Mbatha said, adding that he was comfortable criticising his nephews’ educational levels.
“Parents who do not take their children to school should be held accountable, not my brother.
“He didn’t hold a gun to their heads and order them not to educate their children,” Mbatha said.
He continued to say in early 2020 Makenzi bought farmland, built a house, and migrated with his children.
This, he said, reduced the frequency with which they met in Malindi.
“He said to be a servant who was told what to tell the people by his master. And that after the master stated the job was finished, he had nothing to say to his disciples, and therefore had to close the church.”
His parting shot; “My brother is not guilty of what he is being accused of. I know him as a kind and honest man.”
Their mother Anastasia Mwele said Makenzi has no case to answer. Mwele, a resident of Furunzi village in Malindi, said her son stopped preaching in 2019.
“It’s painful to see everyone calling my son a killer. If indeed he was a killer, he would have killed me first. Those accusing him are his former followers,” said Mwele.