Paul Mackenzie

Paul Mackenzie when he appeared before Shanzu Law Courts on June 2, 2023. 

| File | Nation Media Group

How Paul Mackenzie was inspired by Australian cultists

An Australian cult linked to controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie had been taken to task over questionable kidney donations, according to reports seen by the Nation.

The Australian cult leader and his wife, who are leaders of the “Jesus Christians” group, have been accused by a Senate committee of inciting religious extremism in the country that led to the deaths of over 400 people in Shakahola, Kilifi County.

An independent search by the Nation established that Dave and Sherry Mackay had been accused of brainwashing their believers into donating their kidneys to complete strangers under suspicuous circumstances.

They also drained their followers’ bank accounts and separated them from their families.

The Senate ad hoc committee that is investigating the Shakahola deaths and is chaired by Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana mentioned the Mackays in its report, claiming that Mr Mackenzie was indoctrinated by their teachings.

According to the committee, Mr Mackenzie used virtual links and social media to reach out to the foreigners and their cult dubbed,“Voice in The Desert”.

Furthermore, it is alleged that he hosted their associate in Makongeni, Nairobi City County, who delivered anti-government summons, particularly stating that the Huduma Namba was “the mark of the beast”.

Additionally, the associate allegedly urged followers to abandon earthly possessions and follow Mr Mackenzie to the “promised land”, which was later established to be located in Malindi.

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Reports show that, in the early 2000s, the Mackays and their followers hit headlines across Australia and the UK over questionable organ donations, particularly kidneys.

According to media reports at the time, the group’s members from Kenya, Britain, the US and Australia had donated their kidneys as part of their desire to “live selflessly”, following teachings by the cult. These occurrences led the group to be referred to as the “kidney cult”.

The believers donated their organs secretly as their kin, who were interviewed by journalists, said they suspected that they had been brainwashed.

“Information [made available] to the committee established that Paul Mackenzie was influenced by Dave Mackay and Sherry Mackay from Australia, who are founders of a cult movement known as Voice in the Desert. The teachings of this cult include forsaking all private ownership of property, surrendering earthly possessions and relocating to an isolated communal place where members serve one master,” the committee report states.

In May this year, documents filed at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi indicated that some of the Shakahola victims may have had their organs harvested before they were buried in mass graves.

The documents filed by Chief Inspector Martin Munene, in an application seeking to freeze bank accounts belonging to New Life Centre and Church leader Ezekiel Odero, who was linked by detectives to Mr Mackenzie, alluded to a wide network of organ traffickers in the country that is under investigation.

How Nation journalists stumbled on Shakahola mass graves

“Post-mortem reports have established missing organs in some of the bodies of the victims so far exhumed. It is believed that trade on human body organs has been well-coordinated involving several players,” said the officer.

Associates of the two Australian preachers had also been accused of kidnap across different countries, including Kenya and the UK.

In Kenya, records show that Roland and Susan Gianstefani, who are members of the “Jesus Christians”, were arrested in 2005 over the disappearance of a woman and her seven-year-old son.

The church later released a video of the woman and her son on their website and YouTube channel, with the woman defending the two suspects while claiming that she was in hiding from her father who wanted to take custody of her son. It later emerged that Roland and Susan had encountered a similar case in the UK in 2000 when a British judge handed them suspended six-month jail sentences for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of a teenage boy who had left home to join their group.

In their report, the Senate committee expressed frustrations in their bid to expose the truth about the Shakahola massacre.

They accused Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Health counterpart Susan Nakhumicha of blocking government representatives summoned to appear before the committee from testifying.

“Despite extending invitations and issuing summonses, the committee was unable to procure the attendance of key witnesses. These included former Kilifi County Security Committee members, who were transferred following the discovery of the tragedy in Shakahola forest,” the report reads in part.

Prof Kindiki informed the committee that some of the transferred officers were witnesses and others suspects in the ongoing investigations.

The committee recommended that “the Attorney-General declares Mackenzie’s Good News International Ministries a society dangerous to the good government of the Republic of Kenya pursuant to section 4 (1) (ii) of the Societies Act (Cap 108) within thirty (30) days of adoption of the report by the Senate.”

It also accused the country’s justice and security systems of failing to take appropriate action early enough despite the matter having been extensively publicised in the media and by human rights organisations, victims’ families and political leaders.

- Additional reporting by Farhiya Hussein