Johannesburg - Africans have always had contradictory relations with religions - even from 400 years ago when sailors landed in the Cape with Bible in one hand and gun in the other. Missionary objectives have always been double-pronged, maybe even single-pronged, with one being a smokescreen for the other.
African resources have been plundered and ploughed in the name of religion in either natural resources or people. Some religions have played a significant role in the liberation of people in Africa.
There is a rise of predatory practices in most religions that must be stopped immediately to allow the continent and its people to prosper.
Fast forward to present day and we’re seeing a resurgence of this devastating play book being orchestrated by US, Nigerian, and even South African dogma, promising people profit and prosperity for blind loyalty.
This new wave of evangelism is particularly attractive to Africans because it resonates with the clairvoyant nature of African spirituality and materialism of modern-day reality. People are raised from wheelchairs as “evil” spirits are vigorously expelled from them.
People’s wages and livelihoods are offered as tithe sacrifices for membership, and to buy favour and solicit fortune from God in a sort of twisted investment scheme.
There seems to be a clandestine partnership between these groups and some African governments because during all the madness and abuses, action against the churches is generally slow, if any. It’s a sort of campaign against independent thought.
Understandably so because the concept is a threat to church and state, especially in Africa where democracy is such a foreign concept.
The churches maintain a flock-like discourse focused on miracles and metaphysics among the population which conveniently keeps governments free of accountability to the people.
As in the case of a Pentecostal Church in western Uganda, in a community ravaged by the HIV/Aids pandemic, a pastor attributed people’s sickness to immoral, and irresponsible sexual conduct and that the disease would be cured by prayer. This leaves no room for governmental intervention programmes for treatment and prevention, only prayer.
Closer to home, a child perished at Pastor Paseka Mboro Motsoeneng’s church in Katlehong last year because their mother took her to the church instead of a hospital for treatment.
After the pastor failed to heal the child, the paramedics were called but the child died on the scene. Even in a simple medical emergency, people have been conditioned to trust the church and its antics to heal, with devastating consequences.
We’ve seen gangsters and thugs declare themselves deities to be able to fly under the radar of reason. They’ve tricked communities into channelling the little they have to these con artists for salvation, or even to just belong to like-minded people led by a spiritual guide.
They’ve raped women and girls and kept them indoctrinated and at their every beck and call. They’ve made people eat grass, snakes, drink petrol and sprayed insecticide on their faces -all in the name of deception.
People’s desperation become their blinders as they cannot perceive anything but the wild fantasies of these pastors. When there is a constant and pervasive threat against a people, when does government decide that regulation is required and enforced?
When do governance structures decide to protect vulnerable people who are being plagued by liars and deceitful men out of their pensions, livelihoods and daughters?
Is it by design that the guardians and protectors watch idle while women get forced into harems and made into unwilling concubines for social acceptance.
The most vulnerable are little girls and women that come from low-income homes with no fathers. Possibly, because they’re desperate for a better life and a strong male figure, and if that man just so happens to be aligned with God, it sounds like a dream. But soon it becomes a nightmare where each of the girls fear objecting because of the other and they all stay bound by their own fears and paranoia.
Church is meant to be a place of solace and peace from the painful and evil perils of everyday life.
The agents of death that are seemingly mushrooming all over the most vulnerable of African communities are eroding this notion and are being assisted by governments supposed to fortify people’s well-being.
What are they to do now, who must they turn to?
* Monyae is a senior political analyst at the University of Johannesburg.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.