Makandiwa cashes in
HARARE - Emmanuel Makandiwa, a young and charismatic “prophet” commanding one of the largest Christian denominations locally, has lined himself up for a big pay day.
His outfit, United Family International ministries (UFI) that he co-founded with his wife Ruth, is set for a possible $0,5 million windfall at the very minimum by charging top dollar for a “spiritual” conference running from Friday to Sunday.
Church members are required to fork out as much as $60 per person to attend the conference, which will be graced by Makandiwa’s “spiritual father” Ghanaian Victor Boateng.
One needs to pay at least $10 as conference fees to be allowed in.
To get up close and personal with the man who describes his movement as “a prayer answered” for Zimbabwe and the world, one needs to pay an extra $50 for the VIP section.
Some members of the public who spoke to the Daily News said the move showed how Christianity in Zimbabwe is catching up with the craze in most parts of the world where religion has turned into good business.
UFI organisers say they are targeting 50 000 people to attend the conference, running under the theme “Breaking the cycle of negativity, possessing your destiny.”
Going by the organisers’ target, Makandiwa and his church will pocket a cool $500 000 from the $10 conference fees. That figure will balloon if the $50 VIP fees are taken into account.
The 50 000 figure may seem too huge for politicians and local football teams battling to attract crowds.
But Makandiwa has in the past surpassed such numbers. Over 60 000 people attended his sermon at the National Sports Stadium at Easter this year.
Makandiwa, whose life story is a rags to riches tale, has illuminated Zimbabwe with his church sermons. He grew up as a village boy in Muzarabani and rose to become a superstar church leader in nine years and now pitch tents at almost all his sermons to accommodate overflow crowds spilling out of the auditorium.
People were streaming in to buy tickets for the conference when the Daily News visited UFI church offices yesterday.
A cashier at the offices said she expected all tickets to be sold out by end of day today.
According to a church official, the money for VIP tickets will be used for food, parking and reserved sitting in the auditorium.
“The $50 does not include conference fees. It caters for parking, reserved seating and the auditorium and a three course lunch for the duration of the conference. One will also be required to pay an additional $10 for the conference,” Pastor Kufa told members during a church service on Sunday.
Those who do not pay will not be allowed in, although free for all services will be offered on Friday and Saturday evening for poorer souls.
The conference is one of Makandiwa’s money spinning ventures.
He has introduced several cash cows such as a controversial spiritual link card where people pay to receive daily spiritual messages from him.
A Harare businessman, Pascal Nyasha, has taken Makandiwa to court over the project, claiming to have been the brains behind the project.
Religious organisations enjoy a number of concessions due to the nature of their business. Income tax legislation exempts from taxation ecclesiastical institutions of a public character.
This covers the receipts and accruals of religious organisations such as Makandiwa’s UFI.
They also get rebates on duty if goods are imported specifically for church purposes.
Many pastors today are building multi-million dollar empires out of their churches.
Abandoning the traditional robes usually worn by clergy from “old school” churches such as the Anglican or Roman Catholic churches, they don expensive pinestripe suits, fly around in private jets and cruise around in fancy, top-of-the-range cars.
According to Forbes Magazine, pastors are no longer solely interested in getting people to Heaven; they’ve devised intelligent ways to make good money while reaching out to souls as well.
Recent research in Nigeria showed that most church leaders were among that country’s top 10 richest people.
One of them, David Oyedepo, leader of Winners’ Chapel International, was valued at around $150 million.
According to Forbes magazine, Oyedepo owns four private jets and homes in London and the United States.
He also owns Dominion Publishing House, a thriving publishing company that publishes all his books often focus on prosperity.
He founded and owns Covenant University, one of Nigeria’s leading tertiary institutions, and Faith Academy, an elite high school.
Temitope Joshua of Nigeria, popularly known as T B Joshua is valued at between $10 million and $15 million and owns a television channel, Emmanuel TV. - Daily News