Even though he is no politician and has never visited the nation of Malawi, Nigerian ‘Prophet’ TB Joshua is a force to be reckoned in the political sphere of the Southern African nation.
Since his infamous prophecy regarding the death of former President Bingu wu Mutharika coupled with his closeness to the nation’s first female leader Joyce Banda – who visited his church on multiple occasions while in power – Joshua has chalked his name, albeit controversially, in Malawi’s political annals.
Indeed, an official government enquiry into Bingu’s sudden death actually probed Joshua’s prophecy as part of their extensive research into the circumstances surrounding his passing and the ascendency to power of Banda.
The current president (and brother of the late Bingu) Peter Mutharika famously attacked the Nigerian televangelist over a prophecy wrongly attributed to Joshua that his own demise – alongside that of Zimbabwe’s then-leader Robert Mugabe – was impending.
“Let me tell you, Joshua… you will fail. You will not do what you did to my brother in 2012. Mugabe and I will live long because I am not scared of your prophecies,” the president told a rally in the capital Lilongwe in March 2016, although it later emerged that no such prophecy had been uttered.
Speed up to the 2019 elections and the prominent Nigerian is back in the headlines again, having been forced to deny a prophecy spreading like wildfire on social media that he had predicted victory for UTM Party’s presidential candidate Saulos Chilima.
“A minister of God is someone who God Himself puts His Word into his mouth,” the cleric wrote on his official Facebook page, followed by 3.5m people.
“God has not put anything in my mouth to say concerning the election in Malawi. The rumour being circulated that ‘Prophet TB Joshua said someone will win the election in Malawi’ is not from me. This is not true! May God bless the nation and people of Malawi,” the statement concluded.
Chilima, Malawi’s current Vice President, may live to rue his name being attached to the prophetic rumour, as fingers are now being pointed back to his party as originators of the gossip, much to the chargin of Malawi’s heavily religious populace.
Intriguingly, Chilima was forced to deny his visit to Nigeria inOct ober 2018 was to privately see Joshua, insisting instead that he was meeting with Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
It is indeed ironic that the influential cleric he denied going to visit is the same person his online henchmen used in a twisted propaganda to try and sway the minds and votes of Joshua’s teeming
followers in Malawi.
The denial of Joshua, which attracted headlines across Malawian media, reinforces the fact that the controversial cleric is still a potent force in the nation’s regional politics.
It remains to be seen whether the backlash of Joshua’s denial of theChilima prophecy will ultimately have any bearing on the results of the upcoming elections.
But going by the effect Joshua has had on countries such as Malawi’s neighbour Tanzania – whose firebrand leader John Magufuli is an ardent follower of the ‘prophet’ – it would be safe to say his name may still crop up as the polls draw steadily closer.
Siwela Bonga is a writer interested in religion and African politics