“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion,” reads Proverbs 28:1.
Looking at the boldness the now infamous Paul Mackenzie Nthenge exuded then, standing before his flock, you would think he is as innocent as a lamb, as white as snow. You would expect he knows his Bible inside out and has read Proverbs 28:1.
When he sees cameras roll in his presence, he does not duck for cover. He instead adjusts his frame and embarks on a long, guiltless speech. He clearly is, one would think, not among the wicked.
In such moments, one would not guess that the televangelist is in the middle of one of the worst religious tragedies in Kenya’s history. Men, women and children who have drunk from his cauldron of bizarre, illegal indoctrination have been dying in droves, years after the pastor started his ministry.
Law and faith
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) detectives have so far exhumed not less than 58 bodies from a graveyard in which Pastor Mackenzie’s followers were buried in Shakahola, Kilifi County.
And yet the man does not look the least fazed. In an interview that followed the discovery of the Shakahola graves, Mr Mackenzie, appearing happy with himself, intermittently burst into a guttural laugh when he made claims about a crash between law and faith.
He has been a preacher since 2003, he said, until his August 2019 hiatus when “The Lord’s voice told me that I had done enough”. His Times TV channel also closed towards the end of that year.
“It wasn’t the government that closed down my ministry or TV station. I heard the Lord’s voice that told me that my nine years’ ministry and prophecy on end times was over. I was commanded to tell my followers that by December 2019, the TV would shut down for good. It was hard to accept but that was Lord’s voice,” he said.
He then left the ministry and started farming in 2020 “like every ordinary Kenyan”.
This year’s arrest is not his first. In 2017, he was held for convincing locals to ditch school and medicine. Tens of children obliged, but they were promptly rescued following a public outcry. After his arrest this month, Mr Mackenzie said that he was facing persecution from the government, because “(The Apostle) Paul said that the law and faith will fight forever, which is a fight of the body (law) and spirit (faith).”
Mr Mackenzie’s opposition to education saw beleaguered parents seek governments’ intervention to apprehend him and to convince their children to resume schooling.
“I told people education is evil. I was arrested, prosecuted and I served my sentence. Today I repeat the prophecy to the world. Children are taught gayism and lesbianism,” he recently said.
On the back of these transgressions such as advancing education, the Earth, he claims to have said, would be hit by a horrible tragedy in the end of 2019. “The world’s economy would collapse. It came to pass, is it now totally flattened, and matters not getting worse? I was persecuted then, but I knew time would vindicate me. It has.” The tragedy he speaks about could be Covid-19.
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In 2017, he faulted a clash between syllabi and religious teaching, saying that teaching children that humans came from Zinjanthropus was contrary to the holy writ. “But the government will support these satanic things such as education and buying of condoms while no money is set aside by the Treasury to support our ministry,” he said. He should not have been much bothered, though. Wisdom, he claimed, came from above.
Then Malindi OCPD Matawa Muchangi, now deceased, led police to arrest the pastor and rescued the children he had talked out of school.
Mackenzie rubbed the government the wrong way again when, at the introduction of Huduma Namba, he claimed it was the mark of the beast. Worshippers from his Good News International Church gave testimonies of seeing, in late-night visions, the mark of the beast way before Huduma Namba’s introduction in 2019.
A worshipper only identified as Dr Lucy, deceased at the time of releasing the video, had in 2013, ahead of the general election, seen a vision in which the number 666 sat beneath a bucket that was labelled The National Alliance, former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s political coalition. The other bucket, Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) had nothing beneath it.
“What doubt do we have that this Huduma Number is 666?” asked Mackenzie.
Yet another claimed to have seen the president issued with notes bearing the number 999, with a serial number WA012 and strict conditions that everyone had to use that money. The wounded, said the seer, would be turned away from hospitals as leadership traded human souls with the devil.
Mr Mackenzie was quickly arrested. But he insists he was right.
“I said Huduma Namba was the mark of the beast according to Revelation 13: 16-18. I was arrested. I said Huduma Numba would live on. I was right,” he said.
The Bible verses he quotes, in King James Version, read: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is six hundred threescores and six.”
When he was arrested amid public outcry this month, Mr Mackenzie, who said in an interview he prefers to be plainly referred with the title Mr and not Pastor, said:
“Let DCI do thorough investigations and if I have no crime, let them not do what they did to me last time. I’ve reported that someone in Nairobi has tarnished my name that I’m killing and burying people.”