Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity are powerful forces in sub-Saharan politics. So, too, is the belief in prophecy and sorcery.
In Zimbabwe, it is tense times, with uncertainty about President Robert Mugabeâ€™s health, the dates of the next election, and whether constitutional and other reforms will be achieved. Taken together, faith and politics are the context for the Zimbabwean partisan wrangling over a Nigerian Pentecostal preacher.
Zimbabwean prime minister and opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has allegedly invited the Nigerian televangelist and faith healer Temitope Balogun (â€˜TBâ€™) Joshua to Harare to be the guest speaker on Africa Day, May 25, a â€œNational Day of Prayer.â€ In response, the police, dominated by President Robert Mugabeâ€™s ZANU-PF party, are pulling out all of the stops to prevent the visit. A senior police officer accuses Joshua of being a â€œfalse prophet,â€ and screened at the Harare police headquarters a video that dwells on Joshuaâ€™s alleged womanizing, titled â€œT.B. Joshuaâ€™s Evil Doings Finally Revealed.â€ Close Mugabe ally, the schismatic Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga, accuses Joshua of â€œSatanismâ€ and of being â€œdiabolical.â€ Previously, other pro ZANU-PF clergy have claimed on state-controlled media that Joshuaâ€™s preaching is â€œjudgmental, partisan, and unorthodox.â€ The apparent anger of Mugabeâ€™s supporters also reflects that many Zimbabweans, like others in sub-Sahara Africa, treat prophesy, â€œSatanism,â€ and the â€œdiabolicalâ€ with deadly seriousness. Hence, the denunciation of Joshua as a â€œfalseâ€ prophet.
Joshua earlier prophesized that â€œan African leaderâ€ would die in sixty days. In fact, the president of Malawi died shortly thereafter. More recently, he has prophesied that another â€œAfrican leaderâ€ will fall â€œcritically illâ€™ and be hospitalized soon.
For Mugabe, who reportedly suffers from prostate cancer and seeks medical treatment in Singapore regularly, this â€œprophecyâ€ is probably too close to home. It doesnâ€™t help that Joshua has apparently been invited to Zimbabwe by Tsvangirai who might somehow benefit from Joshuaâ€™s charismatic preaching whenever the elections are held.
An estimated 15,000 attend Joshuaâ€™s Nigerian services on Sundays, at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN). He also runs Emanuel TV, which broadcasts via satellite and Internet. He has affiliated congregations in Ghana, the UK, South Africa, and Greece. Zimbabwe police are reportedly investigating a â€œfraudsterâ€ church in Harare allegedly linked to Joshua. His faith healing ministrations have included South African rugby players.