Prophet Bushiri: A pattern of vilification and harassment

BUSHIRI supporters praying outside court. Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Prophet Bushiri is in trouble because he is young, gifted and black. There is a pattern of vilification and harassment which suggests a systematic targeting of Prophet Bhusiri, also known as the Major One. The media seem to have also jumped into the bandwagon. The main question is why this program of desecration of the name of this particular Prophet? 

In a short period of time we have seen the Major One being being accused of a stampede which caused the loss of life of three congregants. Instead of allowing the police to do their work we saw violent protests being staged against the church. It now turns out that some of the protestors were paid to do this dirty work.

The Commission on religious affairs has cleared the Major One of any wrong doing on the matter of the stampede. But soon after, the prophet was arrested ostensibly for money laundering and fraud. The matter revolves around the purchase of a private jet. Its not like the Prophet has stolen from anyone. There is evidence that this is about nothing but jealousy and our government has allowed itself to be used in the business and religious wars going on in South Africa.

Furthermore, we saw unreasonable denial of bail on the flimsy basis that the authorities needed to verify the passport of the accused. This meant extra days inside jail for the Prophet. When bail was finally granted new reports of investigating the citizenship status of the Major One emerged. All this looks like a witch hunt. 

All these are happening at the same time as new reports of systematic sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church are published with scant if any media attention at all. It was quite interesting to contrast the treatment of the admission of corruption around the manipulation of the rand by Maria Ramos of ABSA and the threatening of the Major One. It is known that just in three days in December 2015 the JSE lost over R500 billion as a result of manipulation of the rand. It’s a known fact that South Africa annually loses over R100 billion on tax evasion and money laundering by multinational companies. Yet not one executive of these companies has been arrested.

The question is why is Prophet Bushiri targeted? Firstly; its because he is young gifted and black. At thirty five years of age he has built an empire which is threatening the establishment churches who are controlled by whites. Truth is Prophet Bushiri is becoming too big and the establishment is worried about this development. Black people in their thousands are abandoning the option of going to orthodox churches as they opt for the Pentecostal faith with Major One playing a major role in the movement.

In a racist anti-black country such as South Africa it’s a given that black achievement which is not supervised by white trusteeship is frowned upon. All indication show that the Major One has taken on a system meant for white authority and turned it on its head.

Part of the reason why Prophet Bushiri is under attack was provided by Ayanda Tshazi who observed that; “Bushiri also represents something the Imperial project cannot tolerate: the success and influence of a deviant young black, worse off a non-South African at that! The audacity of using the Christian god to OWN black people’s hope? That is the job of white men and white god or at least to be administered by the conforming black saffafrican clergy whose allegiance is to the Pope in Rome / the white Christian empire.”

This line of argument unlocks an interesting line of thinking. It shows that Bushiri is a problem because he disrupts the symbolic order that sustains whiteness as the conduit to God. In Marxism terms we can legitimately say he represent resistance in itself not yet for itself. Others could say its a movement not yet fully aware of its disruptive powers.

Tshazi went further to claim that;  “Bushiri has replaced the white Jesus with himself; his young, black foreign self. The establishment cannot have that. Even Ray McCouhley can’t have that. We cannot afford to have the black imagination filled with hope in a black body! Which is why after Bushiri they WILL come after Lekganyane, Shembe, Mboro and even your powerful Sosobala-equivalent traditional healers.” Basically; white supremacy can not afford the association of blackness with godliness. I have been alerted to a massive scholarship on the Pentecostal movement by Ntombi Wonci a UNISA PhD candidate. Her summary of the literature on the Pentecostal movement is worth sharing. 

“This work moves beyond the simplistic understanding of the top down approach from Europeans to Africans. But reflects on how the subject ‘Ghanaian’ in turn takes charge and redefines spirituality in the realms of these churches to in turn make sense of the brutal conditions they find themselves in. The irony then is how religion in this case Christianity in Pentecostal Churches is used by people to question their existence, conditions they find themselves in and their desired self in a system that is alienating and oppressive.”

These sort of insights go against the orthodox church criticism that these churches are cults which pray on the poor. On the contrary the poor and alienated are using the church and its teachings on wealth and health here on earth to inspire self empowerment. The traditional Christian faith preaches suffering and sacrifice on earth and reward in the hereafter. The Pentecostal church says suffering is ungodly and prosperity is a sign of the grace of God.

This distinction is important. The idea that one must suffer in peace here on earth is a colonizing one. The counter, that is God doesn’t want suffering here on earth is potentially liberating. Bushiri becomes the symbolic representation to the path to prosperity. This is what essentially makes a representative of a living God. A god who answers the prayers of the true believer.

It is essential to appreciate the growth of these churches in the context of a political system which doesn’t respond to the needs of the people. People have made the rational decision to place their faith in the power of miracles instead of politicians. Every Sunday the Prophet provides hope and miracles. There are testimonies of what god has done to the faithful;  a far cry from the record of service by the political class.

Last Sunday I was at the ECG. Thousands flocked to church to be in fellowship and communion with Prophet Bushiri. This is a major stamp of approval from the people. The more the Major One is persecuted the more he is loved and seen as a true prophet of God. As long as there is suffering and hopelessness, the Pentecostal church shall grow. Attempts to criminalise the Major One are bound to fail. The phobia of black success must end and the new rebellious ways of worshipping must be allowed to reign. Anything less smacks of religious  persecution.

Andile Mngxitama is the President of Black First Land First.