Gospel singer Munishi: How I fell out with Paul Mackenzie

Munishi on his falling-out with Mackenzie

Legendary gospel singer Faustin Munishi has for the first time spoken about his 2015 encounter with controversial pastor Paul Mackenzie.

In an exclusive interview with the Nation on the sidelines of a church fellowship at the Christian Brotherhood Church in Kisulisuli, Nakuru County, the gospel singer opened up about his relationship with the controversial preacher who has been linked to the deaths of more than 110 people.

Detectives are investigating Shakahola massacre cult leader Paul Mackenzie and controversial pastor Ezekiel Odero.

At the centre of the massacre is Mr Mackenzie, a controversial preacher who reportedly indoctrinated his followers, some of whom dropped out of school while others quit their jobs to follow a religious mirage. 

Members of what is now described as a religious cult were told to fast themselves to death with the promise of meeting Jesus.

Hundreds of the controversial pastor's followers from different parts of the country and neighbouring countries are believed to have abandoned their homes, with some selling their property, before travelling to Malindi in Kilifi to join the killer fast.

The 'Malebo' hitmaker revealed that they had been good friends with Mackenzie since 2015, but parted ways in 2019 when he started manipulating locals in his Malindi backyard and his followers through twisted extreme religious teachings and fear of the unknown in search of salvation.

"I met Pastor Paul Mackenzie in 2015 and we became friends. He was just a good servant of God when I met him during one of the outreaches on the Kenyan coast, at that time Pastor Mackenzie had his church and owned his television station - Times TV.

At one time I even attended his church and later went on a platform at his Times TV to preach.At that time he was a good man and preached the gospel of truth," Munishi explained.

"Hakuwa mtata hata kidogo. Alikuwa mhubiri wa injili ya ukweli (At that time he was not controversial. He preached the gospel of truth," Mr Munishi revealed.

"I started doubting Pastor Mackenzie's teachings in 2019 when he claimed that the Huduma Namba, which was launched on April 2, 2019, was satanic. I remember calling him and telling him to stop misleading the public," explained the veteran Tanzanian-born singer.

At the time, in 2019, Mr Mackenzie was arrested for allegedly inciting the public against registering with the newly launched Huduma Namba.

In a sermon on his Times TV, Mackenzie told the public that registering in the Huduma Namba was akin to selling one's soul to the devil. The appeal was called 'End Times'.

The preacher compared the Huduma Namba to the apocalyptic beast bearing the number 666.

After the sermon, detectives led by then Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) Coast regional manager Boniventure Kioko raided Good News International Church in Malindi and confiscated cameras, computers and DVDs.

Mackenzie and some church officials were arrested and interrogated.

Munishi recalls that this was the beginning of his differences with Mackenzie.

"Hapo ndipo tulitofautiana kabisa na yey.Nikamwambia hatuelewani. (That's where we parted ways, I told him I didn't understand his teachings," Munishi recalls.

According to Munishi, the controversial preacher later started discouraging his people from pursuing education, saying it was evil.

"Hapo sasa ndipo Mahusuiano yangu naye yaliisha kabisa.(At that point I completely severed my relationship with Mackenzie.) I realised there was something wrong with his beliefs," Munishi further explained.

Pastor Mackenzie first appeared in court in 2019 and was charged with radicalisation, promoting extreme beliefs and failing to enroll his children in compulsory primary and secondary education.

He was also charged, along with some of his followers, with failing to provide children with an education.

"The teachings propagated by Paul Mackenzie, once a good pastor, began to raise eyebrows, with some of his teachings bordering on outright human rights violations, and I remember he had run-ins with the law," said Mr Munishi.

From denying people access to health care to castigating them for engaging in social activities such as watching football matches, Mackenzie's gospel left mouths agape.

In addition to owning Times TV, which he used to spread his teachings, the controversial cleric has been uploading his teachings to a YouTube channel since 2017, speaking to a packed congregation that cheers as he makes pronouncements, some based on the Bible and others drawn from current affairs.

Around 2019, according to Munishi, the government shut down his Times TV and his church, and Mackenzie went underground.

"Kwanzia hapo kanisa lake lilipofungwa,mawasiliano yangu naye yalikatika.Tukawa hatuwasiliani wala kuongea kabisa.Alipopotea nadhani ndipo aliendeleza mafunzo yake ya kikatili (After his church was shut down, we never talked or communicated because our relationship was already not good. I think when he went underground, he was further radicalised," the singer said.

Munishi now says he wants controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie to make a media statement that will help de-radicalise his followers in Kenya and other countries, including Tanzania.

He called on the government to consider protecting the lives of hundreds of Pastor Mackenzie's followers, who he says may still be fasting, by making him make a public statement advising them to stop.

Mr Munishi warned that the victims of Mr Mackenzie's radical teachings might read a different interpretation of his tribulations, which could motivate them to pray and fast more vigorously for his salvation.

"His TV station had a wide reach, and no one can say how many followers he has in the country. Since he is the one who convinced them to start fasting, he is still in a position to convince them to stop, otherwise his arrest might motivate his followers to continue fasting and praying," Munishi said.

He warned the government against playing fast and loose with religious matters, which he said could do more harm than good.
Bishop Geoffrey Buliba of the Christian Brotherhood Church, during the service, accused the government of failing to prevent the deaths caused by Mr Mackenzie and instead resorting to blanket condemnation of the churches.

"The government has all the information and systems to know what each church is doing and should have known what kind of teachings Mackenzie was spreading to his followers. Let them accept that they were asleep at the switch instead of blaming all the churches," said Bishop Buliba.

He rejected calls for the imposition of strict regulations on churches, which he said would interfere with the faith-based work of the church. Instead, he called for further scrutiny before proceeding with the registration of a religious institution.

Bishop Richard Kivai, chairman of the East African Churches Alliance, deplored the tragic events at Shakahola Forest, where more than 100 bodies were exhumed after starving to death under Mr Mackenzie's teachings.

Bishop Kivai urged the government to allow church governing bodies to regulate their members.