The Archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, this week issued a strong warning to churchgoers to be on the lookout for Emmanuel Kalenda Bukasa, who falsely presented himself as a priest.
Napier said Bukasa’s modus operandi was to present himself with documents from a bishop where he previously chose to live. When these were found to be fake he would then disappear.
He said Bukasa pretended to be from Malawi or Uganda but no one was sure.
Over the past few months Bukasa presented himself as a priest on a holiday retreat and allegedly presided over Masses, weddings, funerals and baptisms in different parishes.
Another allegation was that he visited the homes of sick Catholics, where he prayed for them in exchange for money.
Napier said Bukasa introduced himself to the parish priest in the Point area where his brother lived.
At that time he introduced himself with documents purportedly issued by the archbishop of Mbeya in Tanzania.
“In Durban he was active only in the parish where he resided, St Peter’s on Point Road. As far as we know his only fraudulent “priestly” activities were celebrations on his own of one or two weekday Masses, a number of Sunday Masses and blessing one home together with the parish priest,” Napier said.
Father Brett Williams, who worked with Napier, said he was unaware of Bukasa presiding over weddings, funerals or baptisms within the archdiocese of Durban. He said that was highly unlikely because not all Catholic priests were commissioners of oaths or marriage officers and did not preside over civil marriages, only marriages in the church.
“So, I do not believe that if he did preside over marriages that they were civil ones. It is very likely that he visited the sick and tried to solicit money from them. I am also not sure if there were a number of parishes he tried to scam; as far as I am aware it was only one parish in our archdiocese - St Peter’s in Point Road.”
Williams said Bukasa could have obtained his garb just like many other non-Catholic religions have copied their dress and vestments.
“So it is quite easy for people other than Catholic priests to obtain vestments and clerical shirts and cassocks,” he said.
Bukasa was previously arrested and spent two years in prison for being in Tanzania illegally.