TB Joshua visit a ‘blessing’ for Zim’s religious tourism

Johannesburg – Nigeria’s massively wealthy religious leader TB Joshua arrived on a private jet in Harare on Friday for his first “crusade” in Zimbabwe.Joshua, whose real name is Temitope Baogun Joshua, was invited by Zimbabwe’s richest ‘‘pastor’’ Walter Magaya for a week-long visit before the Easter holiday.
In the midst of Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis, Magaya and other new era religious leaders, have made fortunes in Zimbabwe.
TB Joshua is on an Easter ‘ crusade, in Zimbabwe.

Joshua will address Magaya’s followers and will also visit the poor during his Zimbabwe ‘‘crusade’’, according to a press briefing in Harare on Thursday.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said Joshua’s visit was welcome.
“Religious tourism is very important for the country. It will create jobs locally and bring in foreign currency as many people come for the crusade,” he said.
Several government leaders are understood to be planning to visit Joshua during his visit at a time when there is huge political uncertainty within the ruling Zanu PF over who will succeed Robert Mugabe when he dies.
The TB Joshua brand was not always popular with the Zimbabwe government as he made several prophecies about Mugabe’s health prior to the previous elections.
Three years ago more than 80 South Africans died when the building housing Joshua’s church ‘‘hostel’’ in Lagos collapsed.
Magaya is the wealthiest of Zimbabwe’s religious leaders and is building a flat-roofed mansion in a leafy, semi rural suburb east of Harare.
The building is using the only crane operating in Harare at present and several South African builders and engineers are involved the construction of the extraordinary hilltop home.

TB Joshua challenges summons

Lagos – Lawyers for Nigerian preacher TB Joshua said on Thursday they had mounted a legal challenge against a coroner who has ordered him to testify about a fatal building collapse at his Lagos megachurch.

Joshua has been summonsed twice to give evidence at an inquest examining the circumstances of the 12 September tragedy in which 116 people were killed, but failed to appear on both occasions.

The latest no show by the popular televangelist on Thursday angered coroner Oyetade Komolafe, who said he would order his arrest.

But the pastor’s lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, told reporters after the hearing: “We have gone to the high court to challenge the jurisdiction of the coroner to issue a witness summons.

“The coroner has unconsciously exceeded his jurisdiction in that he has started inquiring into matters that are not causative of deaths.”

Komolafe was furious that Joshua, known to his followers as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, was not present for the start of proceedings on Thursday after failing to appear on 5 November.

On that occasion, Ojo said Joshua had been “unavoidably absent” and failed to receive the summons. “We don’t want the impression to be created that The Prophet is avoiding the court,” he said.

On Thursday, Komolafe said: “Any of the witnesses who is not in court today will be arrested. I think the court has been lenient enough.”

Milk of human kindness

Joshua, who counts presidents and powerful politicians from across Africa among his flock, has claimed the collapse was caused by a mysterious aircraft seen “hovering” over the building at the time.

The self-styled miracle worker and seer has also suggested that it was a deliberate attack.

But expert witnesses have ruled out the theory of aerial sabotage or an explosion.

The hearing has been told instead that the stricken guesthouse did not have planning permission and that a number of other buildings at Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations complex were structurally unsound.

A total of 81 South Africans were among the dead. Seventy-four bodies were repatriated from Lagos last weekend.

Ojo confirmed that his client had received the latest summons and added that his appearance was conditional on the outcome of the high court challenge.

Prophet respects law

“The Prophet has respect for the law of the land and will not do anything that will hurt the law,” he said.

“If at the end of the day, it is appropriate for The Prophet to appear he will be in court. We do not intend to abuse the legal process.

“Besides, The Prophet has a milk of human kindness. He is still grieving over the horrendous loss of lives. Coming to court is not proper. It is not a good way of showing respect for the dead.”

There have been calls for Joshua to be prosecuted over the building collapse after the Lagos State authorities suggested it was caused by the illegal addition of extra floors.

But Komolafe has said that the inquest was not a criminal court.

“We are here to find facts, find out what has happened, why, where, when and how so as to prevent a recurrence,” he said on the opening day of the hearing on 13 October.

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Coroner threatens TB Joshua for 2nd inquest no-show

Lagos – A coroner on Thursday said he would order the arrest of a Nigerian preacher after he again failed to appear to give evidence about a deadly building collapse at his Lagos megachurch.

Oyetade Komolafe was furious that TB Joshua was not in court for the start of the hearing, which is examining the circumstances of the 12 September tragedy in which 116 people were killed.

“So, TB Joshua is not in court, the [building] contractor is not in court. Any of the witnesses who is not in court today will be arrested,” the coroner said.

“I will issue a warrant of arrest for such a witness. I think the court has been lenient enough.”

Joshua, a popular evangelical preacher and televangelist known to his followers as “The Prophet” and “The Man of God”, had previously been told to the give evidence on 5 November.

Mysterious aircraft

But his lawyer said that both he and the building contractors had not received the witness summons. There was no immediate explanation for his non-appearance on Thursday.

Joshua, who counts presidents and powerful politicians from across Africa among his flock, has claimed that the collapse was caused by a mysterious aircraft seen “hovering” over the building at the time.

The self-styled miracle worker and seer has also suggested that it was a deliberate attack.

But expert witnesses have ruled out the theory of aerial sabotage or an explosion.

The hearing has been told instead that the stricken guesthouse did not have planning permission and that a number of other buildings at Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations were structurally unsound.

A total of 81 South Africans were among the dead. Seventy-four bodies were repatriated from Lagos last weekend.

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Nigeria collapse: Burial process has commenced

South Africa – The process of sending the bodies of those killed in the Nigerian church building collapse to their places of burial has commenced, government said on Tuesday.

This followed the official reception ceremony for 74 victims held at Waterkloof Air Force Base on Sunday, Nigeria inter-ministerial task team spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

“The mortal remains were transported to the Garankuwa Forensic Pathology Mortuary where they were prepared for transportation by road to their final destinations across the country.”

Areas nearest to Pretoria, such as the North West, had by Monday evening received mortal remains.

“Given the longer distances, Forensic Pathology Service vehicles are expected to arrive in the Free State and Eastern Cape on Thursday,” Williams said.

Government assistance

“Government continues to communicate with family members to explain the exact dates and times their loved ones are scheduled to arrive at the government mortuary nearest to the place of burial.”

Social workers continued to be on hand to provide psycho-social support to families, as they prepared to lay their loved ones to rest.

“Government urges family members not to suffer the pain of the loss of their loved ones alone in silence,” she said.

“The Social Development toll-free number remains available to family members who require the assistance of a grief counsellor.”

The South African government continued to work closely with Nigerian authorities and all efforts were being made to complete the identification process and repatriation of the remaining South Africans.

“Whilst the identification process is in the hands of Nigerian authorities, the government of South Africa remains committed to provide as much assistance as possible to correctly identify the deceased and bring them home for a proper send off.”

More DNA samples

Disaster victim identification specialists from the South African police were currently going back to families of the remaining eleven South Africans to collect additional DNA samples for matching.

“We thank the families for their patience and co-operation as we proceed with the process,” Williams said.

“We wish to reassure the families of the eleven South Africans that all possible efforts are being made to reunite them with their loved ones as quickly as circumstances permit.”

Given the amount of time that has passed since the collapse happened and state of preservation of the bodies, the identification process had become increasingly challenging and could take some time to complete.

“Communities are urged to continue to offer support to the affected families during this difficult hour when they will be laying their loved ones to rest,” she said.

A guesthouse belonging to the Synagogue Church Of All Nations in Lagos, headed by preacher TB Joshua, collapsed on 12 September, killing 116 people.

They included 81 South Africans, as well as three Zimbabweans and one Democratic Republic of Congo national using South African travel papers.

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74 SA bodies returned from Nigeria

Pretoria – The bodies of 74 South Africans killed in the Nigeria church collapse have arrived in South Africa just over two months after the incident.

The bodies arrived at Waterkloof Air Force base our correspondent reported.

Eighty-five South Africans were killed in the collapse at TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations church.

“We can confirm that we depart with 74 South Africans,” spokesperson Phumla Williams said in a statement on Saturday.

“On arrival in South Africa, the families will be able to receive their loved ones to take them to their final ancestral resting places.”

26 injured South Africans repatriated a month ago

A total of 116 people died on 12 September, when a guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos – headed by preacher TB Joshua – collapsed.

Twenty-six injured South Africans were repatriated a month ago. Twenty of them had since been discharged from hospitals and reunited with their families, Williams said.

Last week, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe was appointed as a Special Envoy to Nigeria to oversee the repatriation process of the 85 bodies.

Williams said the focus had been preparations to repatriate the deceased for the past six weeks.

“The verification of the mortal remains has been the most difficult part. This was because of the gruesome nature of the accident, which made the identification process difficult,” Williams said.

The verification process had resorted to performing DNA tests at the laboratory.

There had been a delay in a scheduled media briefing which was set to be held at 15:00 South African time where Radebe was expected to update the media on the final repatriation plan.

Formal reception ceremony

The SA government said it would host a formal reception ceremony at the site on Sunday that will be broadcast on TV.

The bodies would then be transferred to various provincial mortuaries before private funerals are to be arranged.

This week, a team of specialists from South Africa including department of health and the SA Military Health Service officials, forensic pathology officers and police flew to prepare for the repatriation.

A chaplain accompanied the bodies home and families were being provided with support from social workers.

Throughout the two-month wait for the release of the bodies from Nigerian authorities, concerns emerged about their condition.

This week, the government cautioned families not to view the bodies when they were returned.

This was “out of concern for secondary trauma…as well as public health considerations,” Williams said.

A coroner’s inquest into the incident was currently underway in Nigeria.

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No closure until bodies back from Nigeria

Families of more than 80 South Africans killed in a building collapse in Nigeria will not find closure until the bodies are brought back, the Mahikeng Ministers Fellowship (MMF) chairperson Apostle Zandisile Reginald Mpame said on Wednesday.

“We are concerned that until they have mourned and buried their loved ones in dignity, families that are traumatised by their loss and protracted delay will not find closure to carry on with their lives.

“It is completely unacceptable by any standard that the identification process and repatriation of the bodies of our compatriots who perished in the tragedy had not been completed after 40 days,” Mpame said.

In the statement, MMF is described as an interdenominational pastors fellowship.

On 12 September, 116 people, among them 84 South Africans, were killed in the collapse of a multi-storey guest house attached to the Synagogue Church of all Nations.

The church is run by Nigerian preacher TB Joshua. An inquest into the deaths began in mid-October in Nigeria.

No update from laboratory

On Wednesday, a government spokeswoman said that there was still no word on when the bodies would be returned home.

“We still don’t know. Even as we speak now the laboratory [in Lagos] has not given us an update,” Phumla Williams said.

“We reckon by end of the week there will be some information. You see they are not commissioned by us, they are commissioned by the Nigerian government. So they are reporting directly to the Nigerian government, not to us.”

Williams said once she received new information, a media briefing would be called.

Mpame said that the church should unite in prayer for the families that lost loved ones in the collapse.

“This is not the time for opportunistic slander and ridicule to be directed at Prophet TB Joshua, the Synagogue Church of All Nations and those who visited his church,” Mpame said.

End of the month

On 12 October, the City Press quoted a Nigerian medical examiner as saying the bodies would be home by the end of the month.

“We are looking at three weeks,” Prof John Obafunwa, chief medical examiner of Lagos State, was quoted as saying.

“I would be surprised if we had to wait till November… I expect all bodies to be out by that time. The inquest could drag on for weeks and months. But we’re not going to delay the release of bodies to family members because of that.”

Obafunwa was overseeing the identification process and speaking from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, where some of the remains were.

Obafunwa said the autopsies had been completed and samples were shipped out for DNA analysis. He said the identification process had been slow because Nigeria did not have facilities to analyse DNA.

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Why T.B. Joshua’s church collapse actually convinced me he is a genuine man of God

I know many will be surprised at this opinion but it is an honest and frank progression of thoughts from an open-minded individual, not emboldened by any personal bigotry, political agenda or religious connotation.

T.B. Joshua is a name I was distantly aware of prior to the tragic collapse of a guesthouse within his premises on September 12th 2014 that plummeted over 100 salvation-seeking individuals into a premature grave. Indeed, I don’t think there is any Nigerian who can feign ignorance of Joshua’s fame and miraculous claims.

However, by virtue of both location and vocation, there had been no specific reason for me to form any particular opinion or premonition concerning him despite the volume of vitriolic reports I believe we have all heard or read to some degree in time-past.

I certainly respected Pastor Joshua for his commendable humanitarian services, just as I do anyone who gainfully uses their resources for the benefit and benefaction of others, but my train of thoughts had not travelled toward any further conclusive trajectory.

Therefore, the tragic incident and wave of attention bestowed relentlessly on Joshua in its wake provided fodder for reflection. Although I am not a personal adherent to the rather cryptic ‘marmite philosophy’ of ‘you either love it or hate it’, T.B. Joshua’s case appears to aptly illustrate this. Just look at the vast chasm between unreasonable detestation and irrational devotion displayed by Joshua’s foes and fans alike in online commentaries and debates!

I would opt more on the side of neutrality, governed hopefully by rationality!  As a Christian, brought up under a strict moral barometer, I certainly consider myself a ‘spiritual realist’. I would like to believe I am governed by the indomitable principle that forces for both good and evil exist in this world and an individual has a candid choice as to which direction he swings in and thus which influence he operates under.

Therefore, the barrage of negativity and scathing personal attacks on Joshua that spread like wildfire in the wake of the tragic incident certainly irked me. I pose a question at this point – why would a tragedy provide any logical yardstick for determining the authenticity of an individual related to it?

Let me state a few points I observed. Firstly, unreasonable assertions founded on inconclusive insinuations were published as if they were sacrosanct. For example, the statement attributed to a NEMA official who had just arrived on the scene claiming the building’s foundations were not sufficiently strengthened to withstand the additional floors being added was widely quoted and formed a core basis for criticism. However, his arrival at such conclusion without actually digging up the foundation to test its strength was neither questioned nor queried. Also, are disaster management personnel in the right position to give authoritative information on construction matters?

Numerous reports questioned the empathy and efficiency of The SCOAN’s initial response, alleging that emergency workers were refused access to the site. An article published in South Africa’s best selling newspaper theatrically titled, ‘Blood On Their Hands’, even suggested the secrecy that shrouded the incident’s aftermath resulted in a higher death toll. These reports were accentuated whereas conflicting reports detailing the efficiency of The SCOAN’s response and the ‘miracles’ behind the rescues of over 130 were significantly downplayed.

T.B. Joshua’s statement shortly after the incident noting ‘a strange plane’ that flew over the building several times, alongside the release of security footage that captured the horrific incident, was widely condemned as irresponsible, irrational and insensitive. Yet, to date, no NAMA official has made a public statement explaining the plane’s mission in Ikotun that day, if indeed nothing sinister was involved.

Emmanuel TV’s release of a video showcasing controlled demolitions and their remarkable semblance to the manner in which The SCOAN building collapsed was similarly left out of many media reports as the conclusion of structural defects had already been suitably positioned in people’s reasoning.

At this juncture, I must posit that as an individual with some knowledge in construction matters, the manner of the ‘pancake collapse’ I witnessed from The Synagogue security footage certainly doesn’t suggest structural deficiencies. Let’s hope investigators unravel the truth!

Calls for Joshua’s incarceration and prosecution were championed by even respected Nigerian scholars abroad even though the official investigation has not (as yet) declared any shred of culpability on the part of The SCOAN.

To buttress my point, take a look at a piece penned by one skeptic named Leo Igwe on Sahara Reporters. It is titled, ‘T B Joshua: The Collapse Of A Charlatan’ and basically opines that Joshua’s collapsed building signals ‘the slow and gradual crumbling of a mega charlatanic ministry being spearheaded by one of the most notorious evangelical con artists Nigeria has ever known.’

The article contains no substance or systematic thought processes whatsoever; it is simply a barrage of incensed accusations of fabrication and deception against Joshua and Christianity in general. Why was it that Igwe’s openly anti-Christian rantings were given such free advertising? Surely, the focus should have been on the wellbeing of those who lost loved ones in the tragedy (to whom I send my sincere and heartfelt condolences) and not Pastor Joshua’s spiritual legitimacy?

Similarly, a laughable report in Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper shortly after the incident questioning Joshua’s miraculous abilities was prejudiced to the point of embarrassment. If a similar report had been filed on another subject matter, it would have been rejected for its blatant disregard for journalistic ethics and lack of credibility, yet it was not only published but disseminated on various online sites and foreign newspapers.

People repeatedly and usually sarcastically questioned on social media why Joshua had not ‘prophesied’ his own building collapse despite his famed divine insight to foresee events of international significance. The question certainly has validity but it is by no means a factor by which genuineness can be ascertained. Are we positioning Joshua on the level of our Creator by suggesting he must be ‘all-knowing’?

I ask the question here – had this tragic incident happened in the premises of a business tycoon or prominent hotelier, would the venom unleashed towards its owner have been proportionate to that leveled at T.B. Joshua?

It appears to me that people had already prepared and preloaded ‘ammunition’ against Pastor Joshua, awaiting an opportunity to unleash them in a concerted attempt at character assassination. The tragic incident simply provided the sufficient media and public attention to respectably mask motives yet spew forth venom.

In this respect, the amount of criticism leveled toward Joshua actually had an adverse affect on me. Why would people fight someone to such an extent, straining to paint him black, if he was not standing up for what is right? Why would such vehement personal attacks arise against an individual, who has not been found guilty on any counts as yet, without another sinister motive at play? What evidence is there of a man who stands for light if darkness does not attempt to snuff him out?  

The more I listen to T.B. Joshua’s teachings on Emmanuel TV, watch the miraculous activities, eye-opening confessions and touching testimonies, the more I begin to understand. What happened that day was an attack, not just on T.B. Joshua or Nigeria, but on the kingdom of God.

In this matter, although it may be against popular opinion, I humbly yield to the promptings of my conscience – T.B. Joshua is a servant of the Most High.

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Nigeria’s megachurches a hidden pillar of Africa’s top economy

Ota – When a guest house belonging to one of Nigeria’s leading Christian pastors collapsed last month attention turned to the multimillion-dollar megachurches that form a huge, untaxed sector of Africa’s top economy.

Of the 115 people killed in the collapse, 80 were South African.

Hundreds of millions of dollars change hands each year in these popular Pentecostal houses of worship, which are modelled on their counterparts in the United States.

Some of the churches can hold more than 200 000 worshippers and, with their attendant business empires, they constitute a significant section of the economy, employing tens of thousands of people and raking in tourist dollars, as well as exporting Christianity globally.

But exactly how much of Nigeria’s $510bn GDP they make up is difficult to assess, since the churches are, like the oil sector in Africa’s top energy producer, largely opaque entities.

“They don’t submit accounts to anybody,” says Bismarck Rewane, economist and CEO of Lagos consultancy Financial Derivatives. “At least six church leaders have private jets, so they have money. How much? No one really knows.”

When Nigeria recalculated its GDP in March, its economy became Africa’s biggest, as previously poorly captured sectors such as mobile phones, e-commerce and its prolific “Nollywood” entertainment industry were specifically included in estimates.

There was no such separate listing for the “megachurches”, whose main source of income is “tithe”, the 10% or so of their income that followers are asked to contribute.

As the churches have charity status, they have no obligation to open their books, and certainly don’t have to fill in tax returns – an exemption that is increasingly controversial in Nigeria, where poverty remains pervasive despite the oil riches.

The pastors argue their charity work should exempt them.

“We use the income of the church to build schools, we use the income of the church to serve the needs of the poor,” David Oyedepo, bishop of the popular Winners Chapel, told Reuters in an interview. “These are non-profit organisations.”

Pastors on Forbes list

Nonetheless, the surging popularity of the megachurches among the Christians who make up half of Nigeria’s 170 million population has propelled their preachers into the ranks of the richest people in Africa.

In 2011, Forbes magazine estimated the fortunes of Nigeria’s five richest pastors. Oyedepo topped the list, with an estimated net worth of $150m.

He was followed by “Pastor Chris” Oyakhilome of Believers’ LoveWorld Incorporated, also known as the Christ Embassy and popular with executives and politicians, on $30m to $50m.

TB Joshua, pastor of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, at the centre of the recent diplomatic storm over the deaths in its guest house, was thought to have $10m to $15m.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) declined to comment on how churches fit into their GDP figures, but a source there said they were included as “non-profit”, which falls under “other services” in the latest figures. In 2013, the category contributed 2.5% of GDP, the same as the financial sector.

A former banker at Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa , who declined to be named, recalled being approached five years ago by a church that was bringing in $5m a week from contributions at home or abroad.

“They wanted to make some pretty big investments: real estate, shares,” he said. “They wanted to issue a bond to borrow, and then use the weekly flows to pay the coupon.”

In the end, he said, the bank turned down the proposal on ethical grounds.

Yet Nigerian churches do often invest large amounts of their congregations’ money in shares and property, at home and abroad, he and another banking source said.

One pastor bought 3 billion naira ($18m) worth of shares in the defunct Finbank, which later merged with FCMB , after it was rescued in a bail-out in 2009, a fund manager who handled the deal told Reuters. The pastor used a nominee trust account to keep his name off the books.

In 2011, Oyakhilome was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and charged with laundering $35m of contributions to his church in foreign bank accounts. He denied all wrongdoing and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

Oyakhilome was not available for comment and Joshua’s media team declined a request for an interview with him.

Midas touch

Oyedepo’s headquarters, “Canaanland”, is a 4 250ha campus in Ota, outside the commercial capital Lagos. It comprises a university, two halls of accommodation, restaurants and a church seating 50 000 people, with a total overflow capacity of five times that.

“You can see that everything this man touches turns to gold,” Nigerian Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said in a speech at a reception for Oyedepo’s 60th birthday at Canaanland last month.

“May the grace of God abide with you,” he added, to a rapturous “Amen!” from the guests in a marquee.

Other dignitaries present included twice-president Olusegun Obasanjo and former military ruler Yakubu Gowon. A choir sang gospel songs as the guests cut an elaborate six-tiered cake and popped fizzy grape juice out of champagne bottles in golden wrapping – alcohol is banned in Canaanland.

The next day, he delivered four Sunday services in a row to tens of thousands of cheering followers, his white-suited figure projected onto large flat-screen televisions all around.

“From today, no evil spirit, no demon will survive the Almighty!” he shouted, and the crowd roared “Amen!”.

A spokesperson said the church has 5 000 branches across Nigeria, and 1 000 more in 63 other countries across five continents. But Oyedepo’s empire also includes two fee-paying universities that he built from scratch, a publishing house for Christian self-help books, and an elite high school.

Other pastors have similarly diversified ways of getting the Gospel of Christian salvation out.

Oyakhilome owns magazines, newspapers and 24-hour TV station, and Joshua draws miracle-seekers from all over the world with claims that the holy water he has blessed cures otherwise incurable ailments such as HIV/Aids.

Before Joshua built his 10 000-seat headquarters at Ikotun-Egbe in outer Lagos, the area was part swamp, part abandoned industrial estate.

Now, it is a boom town with shops, hotels, eateries and bars catering largely to the travellers who come not only from West Africa but also from all corners of the globe to hear his sermons. Joshua also runs a TV station.

‘Blessed by the Lord’ 

Guests entering Oyedepo’s birthday marquee in Canaanland would have seen a picture of the poor household in southwest Nigeria where he grew up, testament to a rags-to-riches story that many Nigerians would love to emulate.

Like US televangelists, Winners Chapel preaches the “prosperity gospel” that faith in Jesus Christ lifts people out of poverty, and that message partly explains the explosion of the Pentecostal movement in sub-Saharan Africa, where misfortune and poverty are often seen as having supernatural causes.

“We see giving as the only way to be blessed. Blessing other people is a way of keeping the blessings flowing,” said Oyedepo, whose blessings include a Gulfstream V jet and several BMWs.

Giving to support the church and its work is something the faithful are encouraged to do, a Christian tradition that was a pillar of the Roman Catholic church in medieval Europe, just as it has been a major money-spinner for US televangelists.

Aneke Chika, a business analyst in an oil services company, told Reuters on the steps of Oyedepo’s church that she set aside 20 000 naira of her 200 000 naira ($1 218) salary every month.

Asked about Forbes’ estimate of his fortune, Oyedepo told Reuters: “For me, to have fortune means someone who has what he needs at any point in time. I don’t see myself as having $150m stacked up somewhere. Whatever way they found their figures, I am only able to say I am blessed by the Lord.”

He said he could not estimate the church’s total revenues or expenditure on items such as salaries because the various departments, including education, were too diverse.

The enterprises on the Canaanland campus, from the shops selling cold sodas and bread, to a woman boiling instant noodles and eggs for breakfast in a lodge, to pop-up book stalls hawking Oyedepo’s prolific literary output, are owned by the church’s estate, which employs their staff on its payroll, workers at all the outlets told Reuters.

Winners Chapel’s Corporate Affairs department said the church employed more than 18 000 people in Nigeria alone.

Oyedepo says the wealth the church gathers is invested in expanding it, and that if he did not use a private jet, he would be unable to oversee its many foreign operations and still return to Ota every week in time for Sunday’s worship.

Britain’s Charity Commission says it is reviewing potential conflicts of interest in his finances, and last month the home office (interior ministry) barred him from Britain, though it declined to say why.

Oyedepo said he knew nothing of the commission’s review, nor had the home office explained to him why he was barred.

A national conference to debate Nigeria’s constitution this year proposed that the megachurches should be taxed.

But with an election coming up in February, it is debatable whether President Goodluck Jonathan, who is close to several megapastors, would risk upsetting these influential men and their hefty congregations with a fat tax bill.

“There is no single government input on this premises,” Oyedepo told Reuters in the interview. “We supply our water, we make our roads, then you … say: ‘Let’s tax them’. For what?” 

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Call for families to act against ‘prophet’

Johannesburg – Thanduxolo Doro was certain he had heard his sister’s footsteps. “The previous night I tried to pray and I thought I heard footsteps. I thought it was her.” But his joy was quickly dashed, he said on Wednesday.

It’s been three days since he was told that his sister, Vathiswa Madikiza, was one of 84 South Africans who were killed when the church guest house they were staying in collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria, two weeks ago.

Doro said his sister used to join him during his prayer sessions when she was in Gauteng, visiting him from Ilitha township near King William’s Town, Eastern Cape, where she was a high school teacher.

On Wednesday, Doro called on all the families affected by the disaster to take action against the head of the church, TB Joshua, who he called a charlatan.

Doro is not the only family member struggling to come to terms with Madikiza’s death.

“Yesterday morning (Tuesday) my mother woke up and said ‘No, my child is not dead, she must be injured’. I guess it’s something we will doubt until we see the body,” he said.

Doro said he had been informed by officials that they were awaiting the results of a DNA test performed on the body of the woman believed to be his sister.

Meanwhile, he has penned an open letter in which he has called on all affected families to unite against Joshua.

“She idolised the man but was in no way ready to commit the ultimate sacrifice for TB Joshua,” Doro wrote.

In the letter, he said families should file civil claims against the self-proclaimed pastor and advocate for him not only to be banned from South Africa, but from all southern African countries.

He told The Star on Wednesday that he had spoken to two families who were eager to join him, but no concrete plans had been made.

Although he struggled to get information about his sister from South African International Relations Department officials initially, he thanked the government for what it had done, including flying home 25 South African survivors on Monday.

“That sight made me proud to be South African, and for a moment it eased my pain a bit,” he wrote in his letter.

Doro said Madikiza was particularly concerned about teenage pregnancies in Ilitha.

“She was a very kind person, a very loving person, who was more concerned about other people’s troubles,” he said.

Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, said on Wednesday they were “virtually done” with their relief efforts in Lagos.

“We just want to see if any other non-South Africans require assistance,” he said.

Gift of the Givers had made a list of South African survivors, and Sooliman had received about 50 calls from people in South Africa who were desperately hoping their relatives were on the list.

“Some say ‘Please check a second time’. The last two days, that’s all I have been doing,” Sooliman said.

He said it was heartbreaking to tell them their relatives were not among the identified survivors.

One woman who contacted Sooliman had lost her friend, but her cousin was listed as a survivor.

“My cousin informed me that she will be departing last night (Tuesday) and arriving this morning (Wednesday),” said Nolitha Ngada, speaking from King William’s Town.

Ngada had not spoken to her cousin – who sustained only minor injuries – at the time of publication on Wednesday.

“She didn’t tell me about what happened, and I want to know exactly what happened,” she said.

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No SA visa for TB Joshua – ANCYL

Johannesburg – The government should not issue a visa to Nigerian preacher TB Joshua, the ANC Youth League said on Tuesday.

“TB Joshua should not be allowed to come to South Africa until we know what happened to our fellow countrymen at his church,” spokesperson Bandile Masuku said in a statement.

“We will make sure we engage with the department of international relations and co-operation to make sure they do not issue him with a South African visa.”

Around 115 people, including 84 South Africans, were killed and dozens trapped when the multi-storey guesthouse attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, run by Joshua, collapsed on Friday, 12 September.

About 350 South Africans were thought to be visiting the church, in the Ikotun neighbourhood of Lagos, at the time.

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 travel to South Africa to meet the survivors and their families.

On Monday morning, a plane carrying 25 South Africans injured in the collapse arrived at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria. Social workers received two South African toddlers, aged 18 months and two years, orphaned by the collapse.

Another child, aged 6, was also part of the group of injured South Africans that arrived from Nigeria.

Acting Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said the three children were in good hands.

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Injured South Africans go back to TB Joshua

South African worshippers, some of whom were trapped and injured in the building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) in Nigeria, reportedly attended TB Joshua’s weekly sermon on Sunday.

The sermon was held next to the collapsed building site and according to eNCA , South African worshippers stood in the front rows, “waiting with bated breath for their preacher and self-proclaimed prophet to make his grand entrance”.

A guesthouse at Scoan collapsed on 12 September as more floors were being constructed on top of the existing three-storey building, leaving at least 86 dead and dozens trapped in the debris.

It is believed that there were 349 South Africans visiting the church in the Ikotun neighbourhood of Nigeria’s megacity Lagos at the time of the collapse, according to a Sapa report.

A total of 84 South Africans died, the highest number of South Africans to die on foreign soil in a single incident during peacetime.

‘Theory of aerial sabotage’

Joshua told the congregation during his weekly morning service that he will be “travelling to South Africa to meet people from South Africa and other nations who find South Africa easier to visit, in memory of martyrs of faith”.

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

Jonathan said he would hold talks with stakeholders in the construction industry on how to prevent a repeat of the tragedy, adding that he had expressed his sympathies to South African President Jacob Zuma.

Meanwhile, a Times Live Report says chaos, incompetence and lies are to blame for the death of many who could have survived.

The report said South Africans were left wondering how many lives could have been saved if TB Joshua’s church and Nigerian authorities had co-operated fully in rescue attempts.

TB Joshua has, however, denied lack of co-operation and stuck to his theory of aerial sabotage.

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Four-year-old SA girl found alive in Nigeria

A four-year-old South African girl was found alive at the collapsed Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, the Gift of the Givers (GOTG) said on Friday.

The rescue of the girl, Zama, came to light when Sheik Mohammed Jamie, a GOTG representative in Nigeria, was searching for a woman whose daughter had contacted them for help, founder Imtiaz Sooliman said.

“A friend of Jamie’s went first to the hospital on Wednesday to find one guy, and he was kicked out [by hospital staff]. Jamie himself then went to the same hospital later on Wednesday evening.”

He was also asked to leave the hospital.

On Thursday morning, the South African embassy supplied Jamie with the names of five hospitals where South Africans were possibly being treated.

The second hospital on that list was the Subol hospital in Lagos, which Jamie and his friend had been asked to leave on Wednesday.

Sooliman said when Jamie entered Subol hospital again, staff were helpful.

While there, several South Africans recognised Jamie from the Gift of the Givers T-shirt he was wearing.

“That’s when he was pointed at and there they [the South Africans] spoke to him,” Sooliman said.

“He asked if they needed anything and they said ‘We haven’t spoken to our family. We are injured but okay. Some of us are going to be discharged soon’.”

This was when one woman who had been rescued relayed the story of Zama.

“She is still at the hospital,” Sooliman said of Zama.

It was not known whether Zama’s parents had survived the collapse or not.

Sooliman said both South African embassy officials and local authorities were doing their best to help.

However, he had heard reports that church members had attacked and thrwe stones at rescue workers and members of the public trying to help at the collapse site.

SABC radio news reported the number of South Africans killed in the building collapse had increased from 67 to 84.

“The number has risen to 84,” South Africa’s high commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Louis Mnguni, told the SABC in an interview on Friday morning.

He said the search for those unaccounted for had been called off. Those people were now presumed dead.

“The search has come to a conclusion. There were still 17 bodies outstanding,” said Mnguni.

President Jacob Zuma announced on Tuesday that 67 South Africans were killed when the church’s multi-storey guest house collapsed on Friday.

On Thursday, authorities said another 17 South Africans were still missing.

A total of 349 South Africans were in Lagos on church business when the disaster occurred. Of these, 265 were found alive.

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Ghanaian pastor says TB Joshua is a ritualist, accuses him of murder

A Ghanaian pastor, Isaac Owusu Bempah of Glorious Word Ministry International (GWMI), has accused Prophet T.B Joshua of ritual activities over the collapse of a six-storey building at The Synagogue Church of All Nation premises.

The building which collapsed on Friday, September 12, has led to the death of about 80 people.

While speaking on Okay FM, Ghana’s online Radio in Accra, Bempah said; “these are evil hands at work because I know people who have to make human sacrifices in order to be promoted in the spiritual realm. I know some people will vilify me for making this known”.

He also accused the SCOAN General Overseer of coming to Ghana some time ago and causing the death of four people during a programme he held.

Four lives were lost in a stampede at the Ghana branch of the Synagogue Church of All Nation in 2013, when thousands seeking divine intervention besieged the church premises to benefit from the distribution of ‘anointed water’.

“Look at what is happening to him. You came for a programme in Ghana and that led to the death of four people. You also woke up one day and a whole building collapsed, killing over forty people”, the GWMI pastor added.
The Synagogue pastor has been under pressure from the Lagos state, South African President and various authorities over the collapse of a six-storey building in his church premises.

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SA death toll in Nigeria collapse rises to 84

The number of South Africans killed in a building collapse in Nigeria has increased from 67 to 84, SABC News reported on Friday.

South Africa’s high commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Louis Mnguni, told the state broadcaster in an interview on Friday morning that the death toll had been revised upwards.

“The number has risen to 84,” Mnguni said.

He said the search for those unaccounted for had been called off; and those people were now presumed dead.

17 bodies outstanding

“The search… has come to a conclusion. There were still 17 bodies outstanding,” said Mnguni.

President Jacob Zuma announced earlier this week that 67 South Africans were killed when the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria collapsed a week ago.

But on Thursday, authorities said another 17 South Africans were still unaccounted for.

A total of 349 South Africans were in Lagos on matters connected to the church when the disaster occurred.

Of these, 265 were found alive.

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Nigeria: Lives lost as church obstructed rescue

Nigeria’s emergency agency says lives were lost as church officials prevented workers from rescuing victims at the scene of a collapsed building in Lagos.

Most victims were South African.

Spokesperson Ibrahim Farinloye of the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency tells The Associated Press that a multi-story shopping mall and guesthouse at televangelist TB Joshua’s Synagogue, Church of All Nations collapsed at 12:44 on Friday but rescue workers did not get full access until after 17:00 on Sunday.

He says 80 bodies were recovered and 131 survivors were saved by the time the operation ended at 15:35 on Thursday.

Farinloye said on Friday that rescuers lost critical hours when most lives are saved.

Some rescue workers were attacked by church members who also smashed the camera of a TV journalist.

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Foreigners flock to Nigeria for T.B. Joshua’s birthday

Despite the picture painted by international media, it appears the pull of a Nigerian Pastor has surpassed the fear of Boko Haram when it comes to tourism in Nigeria.

The scene at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on Thursday 12th June 2014 was lively.

The steady stream of foreign arrivals, smiling happily and waving national flags, bore no semblance with the international travel warnings leveled at Nigeria, largely due to the terrorist activities of Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram.

When this reporter inquired as to the reason of the exotic influx, the answer from various individuals and airport employees was unanimous – Nigeria’s controversial yet celebrated pastor, T.B. Joshua, who turned 51 today.

“In fact, the entire flight from South Africa was filled with T.B. Joshua visitors,” a SAA employee told me on the condition of anonymity. “It was the same thing yesterday too. Southern Africa can’t seem to get enough of the pastor.”

Officials at the airport I spoke to reckoned that almost 5,000 foreigners had arrived in Nigeria over the last few days to attend Joshua’s church and felicitate with him.

“Nearly 50 Russians arrived today,” one of the ground staff told me. “It was Americans and Brits yesterday, not to mention those that came from Zimbabwe and Zambia; they must have reached more than 500.

They all came to visit Synagogue.”

According to recent statistics from the Nigerian Immigration Service six out of every ten foreign travellers coming into Nigeria are bound for The Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN).

The scene at the airport certainly attested to this, the majority of people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of Joshua’s popular television station Emmanuel TV.

“T.B. Joshua is probably the greatest tourist attraction Nigeria has ever produced,” a taxi driver named Ibrahim who plies his trade at the airport reckoned. “I take people from the airport to Synagogue everyday but this last week especially has been busier than ever.”

The cleric, however, has played down the event, telling followers on Sunday that he would not be celebrating his birthday with any special ceremony.

He stated the current security situation in Nigeria did not reflect the need for any ostentatious festivity, adding that he feels what people in society are feeling.

Joshua encouraged congregants to remember his birthday by praying for their nation, stating that the ‘birthday gift’ he is asking from God is the release of the over 200 girls kidnapped in Chibok over a month ago.

T.B. Joshua was born on June 12th 1963 in a humble home in Arigidi, Ondo State, Nigeria. He is best known for his prophecies, miracles and charitable activities, as well as his online influence.

A Facebook post on Joshua’s official page wishing the cleric happy birthday had already attracted more than 50,000 comments from well-wishers worldwide as at the time of filing this report.

Nigerian actress, Tonto Dikeh, who earlier stated that Joshua’s prayers helped end her 14 year smoking addiction, was among those who congratulated the pastor via her Instagram account.

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TB Joshua is a false prophet: Zanu PF

TB Joshua is a false prophet: Zanu PF
Published on 01 June 2014
Written by New Zimbabwe

ZANU PF apologist Tafataona Mahoso has blasted charismatic Nigerian preacher TB Joshua, accusing him doing nothing to help his government locate 200 school girls abducted by a militant group despite prophesying about other countries.

On April 14 this year, Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram carried out the mass abduction of the girls from a secondary school in a development that has drawn condemnation worldwide.

Countries such as the United States, Britain, France and Israel are already providing varying levels of support to Nigeria’s military to help find the girls.

And with 46 days having passed since the girls were abducted, anger is boiling among frustrated families especially over the lack of a clear government response.

Enter Mahoso, a venomous critic of the West and pro-Zanu PF political analyst who was also handed cushy government jobs in what was seen as a reward for his support.

Speaking during his weekly African Pride programme on Zimbabwe Television (ZTV), Mahoso said it was surprising that Temitope Balogun Joshua, more widely known as TB Joshua, had not been able to help his own country.

The globally renowned preacher claims to have correctly prophesied major events across the world including the deaths of leaders of some countries.

Said Mahoso: “This guy TB Joshua has proved to us that he is a fake prophet through his imported religion.
“Over the past few years he was busy prophesying about Zimbabwe and the death of other African leaders, yet he cannot do the same about his own people.

“We have always tried to warn our people not to follow these (prophets) but they accuse us of being the advocates of the devil. How can he (TB Joshua) fail to prophesy what happened to the girls and where they are being held up to today?”

Mahoso warned locals against flocking to Pentecostal churches spreading like a plague in Zimbabwe under the leadership of young and unashamedly flamboyant “prophets”.

He said these “prophets” were out to fleece people of their hard-earned cash by promising them phantom riches.

Only hard work and following laid down policies can take people out of poverty, he added.

“Spoon-fed and lazy people now believe in miracle money issues, people should just read and understand the Zim-Asset document and put it in practice.”

Mahoso also urged Zimbabweans to stop following what he described as foreign religions.

“We have our own religion which helped us to liberate our country from the whites but soon after that we are abandoning it,” he said.

“That is why we have so many social and economic problems, midzimu yavana Mbuya neHanda, Sekuru Kaguvi nana Chaminuka yakatsamwa”.
TB Joshua was recently quoted prophesying that remains of the missing Malaysian MH370 jet-liner could be found between Indonesia and the Indian Ocean.

Supporters also claim he correctly prophesied the death of an ageing African dictator in 2012 as well as the passing of pop star Michael Jackson.

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