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The fake pastor of Malindi and those deaths on his conscience

The absurd story of the former televangelist Mackenzie

15-04-2023 by Freddie del Curatolo

He does not call himself "Father Mackenzie," like the character in the very famous Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby," but "pastor." He, Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, was a TV preacher before moving to Malindi, then decided to start his own "church," the "Good News International Church," and open a large hall in the coastal town to accommodate all the adherents of what over the years has turned into a cult of sorts. 
In those years he had risen to local headlines for convincing a hundred young students to "play hooky" from school to listen to his lectures. "Quit school and come to church if you want to save your souls" was the motto. Human rights associations and parents had risen up, and the preacher in 2018 was arrested, questioned, and then released by police.

In 2019, Pastor Mackenzie stopped saying mass and channeling believers into the Malindian shed and designated his own "sacred place," where he would go for meditation and invite the most faithful believers, those who have followed him from all corners of Kenya over the years. That place is the village of Shakaola, one of the last before the savannah, on the road from Malindi to the entrance of Tsavo East. Although half-known, it is a place dear to the Mijikenda ethnic group, for it was from there that the first revolutionary uprisings against the British Empire started, with a famous slap by folk heroine Mekatilili Wa Menza on a colonial administrator. It was there that the controversial preacher began practicing increasingly extreme rituals and demanding even heavy sacrifices from his worshippers "in order to see Jesus." For uninterrupted Sabbath prayers from morning to night and for penances and other kinds of conduct "requested directly from the Lord," couples from the north came, people from Kisumu, Kakamega, Vihiga, even from Busia, on the border with Uganda. But also poor people from Shakaola who saw the self-styled clergyman as the last hope for that land increasingly parched by sun and drought.  "I closed the church in 2019 because I had a revelation that it was time to quit. I am no longer a pastor. I identify myself as Mr. Mackenzie. I have no assembly to preach to and I only pray with myself and those who have chosen to believe," the alleged pastor had said in an interview.

On March 17, Nthenge was arrested for the first time by police on charges of urging a parental couple to kill their two children, who were buried in a shallow grave near their hut. According to investigators, the sect leader convinced them to fast "in order to reach heaven faster," according to a doctrine that some witnesses to his Sabbath sermons allegedly confirmed to local media, along with other messages from above or readings in his way of prophecies. Such as dying of hardship to avoid the coming of the apocalypse and being rewarded once deceased.
The Malindi court accused Mackenzie of "manipulating locals through extreme and distorted religious teachings and fear of the unknown in pursuit of salvation, resulting in the deaths of many people."

Nthenge, awaiting trial, is free on bail, having paid just under 100 euros. Yet there are those who still continue to believe his ramblings. Now we hope that the words "the end" will appear on this horror movie.
Yesterday, in fact, he surrendered to the Malindi criminal police search after the discovery of another tragic event in Shakaola: four adults were crushed by starvation during another prayer session with prolonged fasting. Ten others were admitted to Malindi Hospital in serious condition. Even if Mackenzie was not directly connected to this tragedy, he is certainly the inspiration behind it. Certainly the former TV guru has remarkable persuasive skills and even to the press he confessed to being a psychic, possessing special properties and "having seen Jesus." He, however, unlike his worshippers, is still alive and, for now, free to do more damage by taking advantage of naive, ignorant and desperate people. Or, worse, of blameless victims such as children.

TAGS: predicatorechiesaevangelistashakaola

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