The long journey of controversial Malindi preacher Paul Nthenge Mackenzie through the corridors of the criminal justice system exposes how slow nature of judicial processes aided the cult’s operations.
Mackenzie, the founder of Good News International Church, has had run-ins with the authorities, but has always managed to outwit them through the criminal justice system.
He has been arrested several times, but was always released by the courts through bonds as his cases proceeded through the slow turning wheels of justice. Despite the red flags raised by the authorities about the preacher and his activities, Mackenzie has always been able to smile in court, always patiently waiting to pay his bond or bail, and continue with his activities.
But the latest arrest may be the most damning yet.
Mackenzie was first arrested in March 2017, accused of running an unlicensed educational institution on church premises with 113 students.
He was also accused of teaching students against the curriculum and discouraging them from seeking medical attention when they were sick.
This was only the beginning of a series of run-ins with the law.
In October 2017, his ministry’s premises were raided by police, during which some 93 children were rescued and Mackenzie was arrested again.
It’s around this time that he had a bitter exchange with former Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa. He was charged with promoting radicalisation and running a school without proper registration.
He denied the charges and was released on Sh500,000 bail. Later that month, Mackenzie was arraigned before the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Malindi on charges of radicalising children.
In July 2018, a school-based deworming programme at Kakuyuni Primary School in Malindi faced challenges after pupils fled the school after the exercise started.
The pupils later returned with their parents who objected to the treatment, claiming that it was demonic following the teachings of Mackenzie’s ministry.
A year later, in 2019, Communications Authority shut down Mackenzie's Times TV station. Then he was arrested for running an illegal film studio and was released on Sh1 million cash bail.
He was then arrested again on April 13, 2019 for inciting residents against registering for the Huduma Number, calling it satanic.
He appeared before the Chief Magistrate at the Malindi Law Courts in May 2019, and was granted a Sh1 million bail. The case is still pending in court and will be heard on June 26, 2023.
Mackenzie’s most recent arrest, however, is the most chilling.
On March 20, 2023, two minors, Seth Hinzano and Evabradito Ngala, reportedly died of starvation at Chakama location.
They were the children of Isaac Ngala and Emily Kaunga, whose bodies had been buried in shallow graves on Mackenzie’s Shakahola farm.
Ngala is a former GSU officer who deserted to join the cult.
On March 22, 2023, Mackenzie was later arrested and arraigned at the Malindi High Court on charges of forced fasting and starvation.
A day later, the Malindi High Court ordered that the bodies of the two siblings be exhumed, and an autopsy conducted to determine the cause of the minors' deaths. Investigators now believe that this allowed Mackenzie’s supporters to exhume the bodies and burn them to destroy any evidence that could be used against him.
As a result, the Malindi Magistrate's Court released him on cash bail of Sh10,000 and refused to allow the DCI to detain him for further investigation.
On April 13, 2023, some 15 of Mackenzie’s followers were rescued in Shakahola village, Chakama location, following reports that they were starving.
However, four succumbed to the effects of starvation. The surviving 11 were taken to Malindi Sub-County Hospital for medical treatment. The next day, 15 followers were rescued in critical condition due to fasting leading to starvation. Four of them died on the way to Malindi Sub-County Hospital.
On April 17, 2023, the court issued a 14-day remand order and cancelled the Sh10,000 cash bail. Three other accomplices of Mackenzie have since been arrested.
On April 19, 2023, investigations and rescue operations were launched at the sprawling Shakahola farm, resulting in the rescue of 34 followers and the exhumation over 100 bodies from 29 graves.