The political and the prophetic worlds almost always clash.
“As Christians, we are not supposed to celebrate death,” said Whyson Chitete, a Lilongwe businessman in a long queue for fuel at a filling station. “But this one is different.”
This was after the sudden death of Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika last Friday — Good Friday, the holiest of Christian occasions — from a heart attack.
The mixture of relief and jubilation that greeted the 78-year-old’s death last week is a far cry from when he first came to power in 2004, echoing the death of Malawi’s founding leader Hastings Kamuzu Banda in 1997. Malawians, who had suffered under the personality cult of “The Ngwazi (Chief of Chiefs)”, as Banda self-importantly called himself, quickly discerned that Mutharika would lead them down that road as he began to portray himself as the all-knowing “Economist-in-Chief”. Such immodesty in leaders is dangerous.
After police killed 20 people in nationwide demonstrations last July, Mutharika was unrepentant, choosing a police graduation ceremony to tell would-be protesters he would “smoke you out if you go back to the streets”, clearly echoing Banda who used to contemptuously tell his critics: “I will throw you into the Shire River for crocodiles to feed on.”
When he became President in 2004, Malawians hoped Mutharika would use his experience as a World Bank technocrat to stamp out corruption and get the largely agricultural economy moving —and for most of his eight years in power, it worked.
“Instead, he is more likely to be remembered as an old-fashioned African autocrat who picked a disastrous fight with foreign donors and ordered a crackdown on anti-government protesters in which 20 people were killed . . . ,” wrote journalists Jon Herskovitz and Ed Cropley. Ditto Zimbabwe?
This possibly arose from an extremely stubborn streak. First, he fell out with his anointer and predecessor Bakili Muluzi and then with his Vice-President Joyce Banda, whom he had sidelined in preference of his own brother as his successor, but for the intervention of death last week. Banda, now the President, has quickly acted to undo the institutional damage Mutharika had done.
Zanu PF MP Jonathan Moyo this week accused Nigerian Pastor TB Joshua “of being part of the conspiracy in the death of President wa Mutharika”. This was after TB Joshua had prophesied the death of Mutharika to the exact day.
Moyo said: “TB Joshua’s involvement in this tragedy smacks more of a plot than a prophecy
. . . This leaves open the questions as to what happened because to neutral people (Moyo is certainly not one of them), there appears to be more to the saga than meets the eye. . .”
I cannot say I am close follower of TB Joshua, but what I know is that he has prophesied before and these prophecies have come to fruition. I would not go to the extent of labelling these as self-fulfilling prophecies or coincidences because it has been proved that there is extra-sensory perception; that not all knowledge is derived from senses; that is to say, some of this is beyond our five senses. I had a very close relative who foresaw death in the family — and did so vividly. As a result, many relatives found her meddlesome as she would proffer unsolicited warnings based on her seeing impending tragedy. She did not in the least like it and prayed for that “gift” to be taken away.
That said, back to the business of prophecy. From time immemorial, prophets have clashed with ruling systems because prophecy is seldom from within the establishment. Prophecies are necessarily threatening and subversive to established order.
Otherwise, what’s prophecy for if not to right wrongs? Prophecy challenges complacency and ills like corruption. Prophecy is never popular with the rulers because, by its very nature, it challenges the prevailing, dominant values. By challenging rulers’ policies, the biblical prophets invited retribution despite the frequently observed tradition of “prophetic immunity” in Judah and Israel.
Likewise, Jesus can be viewed as a social prophet. He courageously confronted injustice. His actions which could be interpreted politically led to his execution. Had he been living in Malawi, what TB Joshua said was politically dangerous: merely prophesying Mutharika’s death would have invited the anger and violence of the State. Only last week, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa had to hastily issue a “clarifying” statement denying any political undertones in his Easter prophecy.
And this cuts across religions. There was Chaminuka, a famous seer in Mashonaland. “In 1883, a man who believed Chaminuka to have been responsible for the death of his wife went to Lobengula with a false accusation of witchcraft against him. The king may or may not have believed this, but in any case he resolved on Chaminuka’s destruction. He sent him a message, inviting him to Bulawayo on a friendly visit, but the old man was not deceived. He said: “I go to (there), but I shall not return; but, mark you, some eight years hence, behold I the stranger will enter, and he will build himself white houses.” The prophecy was fulfilled before the eight years were out, for the (British) Chartered Company’s pioneer expedition entered Mashonaland in 1890,” as cited by Terrence Ranger in Oxford Journals.
That’s why the white occupiers had to hang Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi in 1898, with Nehanda prophetically saying her “bones would rise”. They posed a revolutionary challenge to the new colonial political order. As true prophets, they faced the consequences of their message. Their words were a prophetic declaration, rather than utterances of political zealots or opportunists seeking a following as seen in Moyo’s self-serving attack on TB Joshua.
That is why TB Joshua’s prophecies unsettle those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of the status quo and will defend it to the deepest of ridiculous depths. They are too mean and greedy to change — that’s why they write off genuine criticisms of them, including from churches, as foreign-engineered conspiracies. They are like temple prophets. They tell the rulers what they want to hear.
TB Joshua is not one for that —that’s why the Moyos of this world are throwing vitriol and insults at him, shooting the messenger
instead of the message.