The name of the controversial preacher Pastor Paul Mackenzie has now become a familiar one in the news, and not for positive reasons. Who is this man that has indoctrinated hundreds of his followers and led them to death by starvation?
Pastor Paul Mackenzie moved to Malindi Township to visit his sister but became a taxi driver until he started preaching in 2003. He established The Good News International Church, now known as the City of Deliverance Church. He held prayer sessions at the house of his follower, David Kahindi, before constructing the church’s prayer house at Furunzi area in 2004. Today, Mackenzie lives in the area.
Over time his church grew tremendously and has branches in Nairobi, Watamu, Malindi, Kitale, Machakos, Naivasha, Mombasa, Mwea, Lunga Lunga, and Matano Manne. At the time of registration, the office bearers were Paul Nthenge Mackenzie as Chairman, Raphael Riziki Baya as Vice Chairman, Smart Deri Mwakalama as Secretary, Lucia Wanjiku Kinuthia as Assistant Secretary, Sebastian Kashero as Treasurer, and Alexander Muema Musango as Assistant Treasurer. However, the ministry changed its officials in 2022, with Joseph Mwinzi Nzioka as Chairman, Mary Wambui Kinyanjui as Secretary, and Sebastian Kashero as Treasurer.
The ministry’s objectives, as submitted at the time of registration were; to pray for the sick and help the needy people, start and operate branches of the ministry, train and teach leaders, organize prayer meetings, publish Christian literature, conduct marriages, dedication of children, baptism and burial services, operate conference centres, amusement parks, entertainment and recreational centres. Besides, the ministry is a non-profit-making and a non-political society.
However, the ministry has been under Mackenzie’s leadership, and has been promoting radicalization and indoctrination against different forms of modern life contrary to its objectives at inception. Until 2019, the ministry operated a digital television channel dubbed ‘End Time Messages’ where they preached on extremist and radical views.
Mackenzie’s teachings revolve around the end times, and he has made his followers believe that a heavenly voice had instructed him to prophesy on the approaching end of time. According to his teachings, the world was to come to an end in two months’ time, and the congregation was convinced to sell their property and surrender the proceeds to Mackenzie. They then commenced a starvation period where they were required not to take food or water for the two months’ period.
Further, the followers were called upon to resign from their gainful employment and follow Christ. He lured civil servants like teachers, doctors, and even members of the disciplined forces. They were also discouraged from seeking medical attention whenever they fell sick and instead to seek divine intervention. Children of school-going age are equally not allowed to attend formal education.
In recent days, Mackenzie claimed that ascending to heaven shall be from Malindi, and only those who have complied with his teachings shall join him in ascending. Interestingly, members of the cult engage in little or no income-generating activities, many had become slaves in the vast Shakahola Forest. They have been settled on an 800-acre parcel of land that is usually subdivided by Mackenzie, with the occupants settled according to their ethnic backgrounds.
On May 19th, 2019, Mackenzie invited a foreign guest speaker who encouraged the congregation to abandon all their possessions and wealth and to follow their master (Mackenzie) who would lead them to a promised land in Malindi. The foreigner further told the congregants that he supported Mackenzie’s teachings against the Huduma Namba introduced by the Government as it was the ‘mark of the beast’ and evil.
The foreigner urged the congregants to watch a YouTube channel called ‘A Voice in The Desert’. The YouTube channel has been associated with Dave Mckay and Sherri Mckay from Australia who were founder members of a cult movement called Jesus Christians, later End Times Survivors and subsequently A Voice in the Desert.
The teaching of the cult includes forsaking all private ownership, surrendering earthly possessions and relocating to a communal place where members serve one master. Dave is linked to human organ harvesting and subsequent sale in the black market through his program Kidneys for Christ.
During most of his teachings, Mackenzie alluded to his congregation that through a vision, God had instructed him to prophesy on the End Times approaching and that he had already been shown a land called Furunzi in Malindi that God was going to turn into Bethlehem. He emphasized to his followers the need to dispose-off all their belongings and follow Christ, and also quit employment as the world was nearing end.
Only those who would do that would be allowed to join him in Malindi and subsequently ascend to heaven to meet Jesus Christ. He spread his teachings through social media especially YouTube channel which currently has 677 videos (@endtimesbreaking-mackenzie7647) with five thousand nine hundred and ten (5,910) subscribers.
In 2020, his television permit was withdrawn and consequently sold Times TV and radio stations to Pastor Ezekiel Odero, running New Life Church. Mackenzie fraudulently acquired five hundred acres of land from Chakama ranch in Shakahola in Malindi Sub County within Kilifi County and later acquired three hundred acres more.
The land is situated approximately eighty-five kilometres from Malindi Township. He initially paid One Hundred Thousand Kenya Shillings after convincing village elders that he wanted to practice farming. Mackenzie then started discretely luring his followers (majority from upcountry) to the forest under the guise of selling land to them.
Unknown to many Kenyans, the pastor has had several run-ins with the authorities but has always outfoxed them through the criminal justice system. He has been arrested on multiple occasions, but each time he has been released by the courts. Despite the respective agencies raising the red flags, Mackenzie has had the last smile at the courts. However, the latest arrest may be the most damning yet.
Mackenzie was first arrested in March 2017 for running an educational facility within the church compound with about one hundred and thirteen pupils without a licence. He was also accused of teaching the pupils against the education syllabus and discouraging them from seeking medical attention when sick. This was just the beginning of a series of run-ins with the law.
In October 2017, his ministry premises were raided by the police where about 93 children were rescued and Mackenzie was arrested again. It’s around this time he had bitter exchanges with then MP Aisha Jumwa. He was charged with promoting radicalization and operating a school without proper registration. He denied the charges and was released on a five hundred thousand Kenya shillings bond. Later that month, Mackenzie was arraigned before the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Malindi on charges of radicalizing children.
Later in July 2018, at Kakuyuni Primary School in Malindi, a deworming programme that was taking place in schools faced challenges after students fled from the school after the exercise kicked off. The pupils later returned with their parents who objected to the treatment and claimed that it was demonic following teachings from Mackenzie’s ministry.
Mackenzie was arrested again in January 2019 for operating an illegal filming studio and was released on a cash bail of Ksh. 1 million. He was then arrested again on 13th April 2019, for inciting residents against registering for the Huduma Number, terming it satanic. He appeared before the Chief Magistrate at Malindi Law Courts in May 2019 and was granted a one million shillings bond. The case is still pending before the court and will be heard on 26th June, 2023.
Mackenzie’s most recent arrest, however, is the most chilling. On 20th March, 2023, at Chakama Location, two minors, Isaac Ngala Titus and Emily Kaunga, reportedly died after being starved to death. They were the children of Seth Hinzano and Evabradito Ngala. They were later buried in shallow graves within Mackenzie’s Shakahola farm. Ngala is a former GSU officer who deserted duty to join the cult.
On 22nd March, 2023, Mackenzie was later arrested and arraigned at the Malindi High Court on an accusation of forced fasting and starvation. On 23.03.2023, the Malindi High Court ordered for the exhumation of the bodies of the two siblings and an autopsy to be conducted to establish the cause of the minors’ death, this did not take place.
This gave leeway to Mackenzie’s followers to exhume the bodies and burn them in a bid to destroy possible evidence that could have been used against him. However, Malindi Law Court proceeded to release him on Ksh. 10,000 cash bail and denied DCI custodial days to further investigations.
On 13th April 2023, in Shakahola Village, Chakama Location, fifteen followers of Mackenzie were rescued following reports that they were being starved. However, four succumbed to the effects of starvation. The surviving eleven were taken to Malindi Sub-County Hospital for medical attention. The next day, 14th April 2023, 15 followers were rescued in critical condition over fasting that led to starvation. Four of them succumbed on their way to Malindi sub-county Hospital.
On 17th April 2023, the court granted a 14-day custodial order and cancelled the Ksh. 10,000 cash bail. Three other accomplices of Mackenzie have since been arrested. Investigators and rescue operations commenced on 19th April, 2023 within the expansive Shakahola farm whereby 29 followers have been rescued. 83 bodies have been exhumed from 28 graves.
Mackenzie’s mobilization strategy was through the YouTube as well as referrals and invites by fellow followers. Currently, exhumation of bodies is ongoing with eighty three bodies recovered as security agencies continue with investigations. More than fifty graves are yet to be excavated and the number of the dead is expected to rise.
According to Kenya Red Cross in Kilifi County the number of those missing is one hundred and seventy-five (175), perhaps an indicator of the possible high number of the missing are from the cult.
Since 2017, Mackenzie has been on the radar of various security agencies, including NGAO, the Police/DCI, and the security and intelligence machinery in coast region. This is evident from the frequent arrests that he has undergone.
In 2019, Mackenzie’s ministry was shut down, and he cited harassment by the DCI and NGAO as reasons for selling off his TV station and church in Malindi and moving to “farming” in Shakahola. The biggest challenge for security authorities has been keeping Mackenzie in custody to reduce his opportunities to mislead and harm Kenyans.
However, this has not been the case, frustrating the authorities. Mackenzie has managed to use loopholes in the judicial system to secure bail and be released from custody, raising questions about the seriousness with which he was charged, and the thoroughness of the prosecution and investigation.
The role of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in the matter has been questioned, but it should be noted that the organization’s role is advisory, not executive. They likely initiated reports that led to police investigations and form part of the County and Sub-County security and intelligence committee, chaired by the County Commissioner or Sub-County Commissioner, where such issues could have been raised.
The crux of the matter is not about passing blame, but rather asking how such an issue could have happened while society watched. The role of the church, local leaders, and politicians in the area, such as the MCA, MP, and Woman Rep, is called into question, as their constituents were dying on their watch.
This calls for introspection among Kenyans to understand why such establishments could start and thrive without causing concern. Are there other Mackenzie’s out there misleading Kenyans? Does it take a national tragedy like this to wake us up? We must learn from this experience to ensure that these deaths were not in vain and that such a situation never happens again.