Jail my son for life if he won't denounce Shakahola cult, father of Mackenzie’s right-hand man says

Father to Zablon Atanda alias as Zablon wa Yesu

Mzee Cleopa Atanda, 79, the father of Zablon Atanda alias Zablon wa Yesu, the right-hand man of Shakahola cult leader Paul Mackenzi, at his Shirombe village, Lukohe sub-location in Butere, Kakamega County on April 27, 2023.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

The father of controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie’s right-hand man has said that his son should be jailed for life if he continues to follow the Shakahola cult leader.

The septuagenarian from Shirombe village in Butere, Kakamega County, expressed disgust over his last-born son’s strange behaviour that led him to disown his family in 2016. 

Suspected cult member Zablon Mwana wa Yesu sits handcuffed in a police vehicle on Monday April 24.

Mr Cleopha Atanda Lihoywa, who has not heard from his son since the latter abandoned his wife and four children, termed it blasphemous that his son  changed his name to “Zablon wa Yesu”. 

“His official name is Zablon Atanda and not that name you are hearing,” he said.

The police are holding the man who was last Friday found reading a Bible at the 800-acre land owned by Mackenzie.

His 79-year-old father has, however, appealed that he be given a second chance if he is ready to confess and denounce the Shakahola cult that has led dozens of followers to starve themselves after they were told they would meet Jesus.

“I call on the government to consider forgiving him if he sees sense and apologises for abusing the scripture and causing the widespread massacre of innocent civilians,” he said.

Before abandoning his church to join Mackenzie’s Good News International Church in Malindi, Kilifi County, Zablon was a good man who cared for his immediate and extended family, his father said.

“He used to assist me financially when he worked at the former Nakumatt supermarket that was located at Cabanas on Mombasa Road.

“When he lost his job, he moved to Nairobi’s Gikomba market where he sold a variety of products,” said the father.

The Form Four dropout from Khwisero Secondary School also attended Lukohe Primary School, said Mr Lihoywa.

He was a strong member of the United Pentecostal Church, where he worshipped in Nairobi before denouncing the church, he added.

“He started behaving strangely when he cautioned his wife against taking the children to hospital and stopping the children from going to school, terming it evil and satanic.

“When the wife refused to join the Mackenzie church, he beat her and chased the family while he moved to Malindi,” he said.

The wife found a job as a cook at a local school.

Due to his religious beliefs, Zablon did not visit his brother when he was admitted to the hospital, and when he died, he also missed the burial at the family's rural home.

“He even refused to attend his mother’s memorial service, terming it evil,” said the distraught father.

Mr Lihoywa said he learned of his son’s arrest when his relatives called him to tell him  they had seen Zablon among those who were arrested and handcuffed at the Shakahola farm.

Zablon was, however, not fasting because, he said, he was waiting until June when he would do so alongside some other men.