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UFI: A miracle-based church or a well organised business?

CURIOUS to find out if claims of miracles by popular United Family International (UFI) church founder Emmanuel Makandiwa were true, I recently attended one of the church services to take a sneak peek.

REPORT BY JENNIFER DUBE

I arrived at Harare’s City Sports Centre just before 8am for the morning service which runs until noon.

By then the venue was already full with congregants and more still arriving.

I joined other late-comers, moving from one bay to another trying to find a place to sit. But the militant security personnel, mostly women, nearly spoilt my morning as they shouted at us, rudely telling us to go to other bays.

It was like a military camp instead of a place of worship.

There were bays for women with young children, one for the deaf and another for multitudes seeking to be healed from various afflictions.

I followed a group of women who were hurrying towards the only bay which had any space left, only to be told it was reserved for pastors’ children.

Left with no option, I stood by the entrance and watched proceedings from a projector.

Expensively-dressed people kept walking up and down the hall despite the fact that the service had already started.

Some congregants were frequenting a corner from which an inviting aroma emanated. It turned out the church has a kitchen tucked in that corner, where a group of women were busy selling various foods and drinks.

There were also tables where neatly dressed ladies were selling various items ranging from stickers, pens, pins, bandanas, notepads, bracelets to umbrellas.

Most of the items were emblazoned with Makandiwa and his wife’s picture, followed by the inscription “UFI”.

Common also, were stickers on most congregants’ cars, boldly declaring “Ndiri mwana wemuporofita (I am the prophet’s child).”

In one corner, a long queue of smartly-dressed people could be seen giving some ladies sitting behind two tables, wads of American dollars, one after the other.

These were later explained as the church’s “partners”.

A message on the projector screens also announced where the “spiritual link” could be found. I later realised that they meant airtime recharge cards that enable subscribers of different mobile phone networks to communicate directly with their leader.

They bore the inscription,“It is not just a text; it’s a life-changing link”.

Cards for local use were going for US$3 and US$6 for international use.

In a scene reminiscent of the chaos at Mupedzanhamo flea market, some ladies — though smartly-dressed — were also moving around selling DVDs of a previous service, each costing US$5.

More DVDs were being sold at several other tables.

Makandiwa and his wife entered the hall amid loud applause and cheers. Almost everyone sprung to their feet singing praises and ululating.

A woman had earlier testified that she had been suffering from fibroids but had been healed following prayers from Makandiwa.

A man referred to as a “doctor” by Makandiwa’s aide, was picked from the VIP section to explain the woman’s condition.

The “doctor” confirmed that the woman had been miraculously healed, stressing that medically, it did not make sense that someone suffering from her condition could be healed without surgery.

Later a man was picked from among the sick. The man, who looked emaciated, told Makandiwa that he had not eaten for a long time following a problem which doctors said could only be resolved through surgery.

The “doctor” explained that the man’s medical papers showed that the nerves in his throat had “failed”, making it impossible to swallow food.

A woman, again picked from the crowd, also presented a similar problem, saying it had been long since she had eaten anything.

Makandiwa prayed for them and instructed their relatives to bring them food.

They both feasted during the service, with them downing several 500ml Minute Maid drinks.

It was like a well-performed script from a Hollywood movie.

Congregants were visibly shaken when a woman who had a big growth “protruding” from her back just below the neck was picked from the crowd.

The woman told Makandiwa that she had been suffering from that condition since 2008 and had no money to go for surgery in South Africa.

The growth was shiny and reddish.

Makandiwa prayed for her and told the congregation that she would return with a testimony.

I was only allowed inside the hall during offering time.

One “friendly” male security person had miraculously found a seat on one of the benches on the pitch.

I gave a US$1 offering, but US$1 is commonly criticised as “toll-gate fees” in most churches. Most people in the church were offering more money.

After the service, I went home still wondering if what I had seen was an act of God or a well-organised performance to make people believe.

‘Partnering the ministry will get you a VIP seat’

Congregants I spoke to said the easiest way of getting a place to sit was to be a partner as one automatically became a VIP.

According to the UFI website, the church “has a partnership avenue where individuals, families and various entities commit themselves to support the ministry financially or materially on a regular basis. This is done through making donations into the ministry or making regular money transfers into the ministry [account].”

Those who pursue this route are promised various benefits, including attending special conferences with Makandiwa and to directly interact with him.

Partnership contributions are categorised into three classes — platinum, gold and silver — and range from US$20 to US$1 000 per month.

UFI members said the fourth category, bronze, was dropped.

Other congregants I spoke to said “partners” hardly faced problems finding sitting places as their seats were reserved.

But Makandiwa’s spokesperson Prime Kufa refuted the allegations.

“Those claims are malicious,” Kufa said. “We have various partnerships, including those with people who clean toilets, security and ushers. In no way does any of these guarantee one a place to sit. Sitting is on a first-come-first-served basis.”

He said proceeds from financial partners including non-UFI members went towards hosting crusades and charity work.

51 Responses to UFI: A miracle-based church or a well organised business?

  1. Cylas January 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    This is true miracle

    • tindo January 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

      bulshit.u are brainwashedwith this conman.

  2. musoni January 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Thanks for the first objective report from a journalist who observed and wrote without opinionating or getting brainwashed. We have bee inundated with reports from star struck journalist and it was getting difficult to separate fact from fiction. Here the reporter allows you to judge for yourself.

  3. respect m January 27, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    musadaro munhu waMwari kani…ari kutsvakawo kupfuma, moti adiniwo???

  4. Mhof January 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    There is no such thing as a 500ml Minute Maid drink
    They are 400ml

    • Liberate Yourselves January 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      Mhof, of all the things mentioned in the article, you pick on the size of a plastic bottle? Unbelievable!

    • Mambo January 28, 2013 at 7:59 am #

      Are you a minute maid vendor? Whether it is 2ml or 30l that doesnt change a good story about that con artist.

  5. jonso January 27, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    Ana makandiwa are running a business enterprise whose product offering involves selling information which relates to God and his creation.its more like Zdecco selling information which involves students getting academic certificates in the end.The only painful thing is that mafuza anoendako havent realised it yet coz theses prophets are always deepening their criminal theatrics(miracles) at each and every sermon

  6. galaz January 28, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    Zimbabwe is full of people waiting for miracles while doing absolutely nothing to improve their lives. Its these gullible people that Makandiwa and his kind will exploit until they are filthy rich. There is no evidence of any of the things they say. Only difference between this guy and the diesel n’anga is that they have not made POLITIBURO members walk on bare feet. The tricks are the same, the aims are the same. Kutorerwa hard earned cash wakasvinura sematemba. Why are people going to learn that its only the LORD who can perform miracles and rank and file are out to line their pockets. Partners, my foot, just gullible people paying for a front row seat.

  7. Cupaz January 28, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Guys I beg u in the name of the Lord,if u do not undstnd wat God is doing in this age,pliz do nt misunderstand olso.Sme of u ar jst commentin b4 even settin foot on UFIC grounds.Hw cum a person with a visible wound be healed instantly and its faked,a person losing 30kgs weight whilst on a scale instantly and its faked,a pregnant woman being prayed for and starts having labour pains,delivers instantly,How on earth can u fake such thingz.Almost all the pastors want this to happen when they call for pple to be prayed for,unfortunately the power of God is not wth them…Prophet Makandiwa is a true man of God

  8. LCM January 28, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    BE CAREFUL OF COMMENTING WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW OR UNDERSTAND COZ U MYT END UP FIGHTING GOD’S REVIVAL , WHILST YOU ARE ONLY HIS CREATION…..

    • TK January 28, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      i do not see the essence of the article or what the writer sought to achieve by the same. Though it might look neutral, it is a piece burnt on despising the church for no started reason( atleast from the article).In the writing the journalist remarks ” it was like a millitary camp instead of a place of worship”. What are the factual basis of this remark? He allude of well smart and well dressed people getting in the church and people being told to sit on vacant bays, how does this feet with the context of a millitary base. Of church merchantise being sold to members for purposes of supporting the work.of God., what is wrong with that? On commenting on those who could not eat and where healed and began to eat the writer notes ” it was a well perfomed script of a hollywood movie” what is the basis of this conclusion to liken a miracle to drama.It is at this point that the writer exposes herself that she did not believe in miracles, and even if she saw that miracle, the audince is being told it was a planned drama, how is this conclusion drwan I think we should be extremely careful not to have our own agenda and hide behind journalism. Why was the writer so nausciated by the healing that it is likened to a hollywood movie. Of all that the writer saw, apart from her comments what was really wrong. She speaks of members paying their partnerships, members coming to church well dressed, church merchantice being sold, meals being sold, order being maintained in church, what is wrong with all that? Do believers have to do what conforms to your thinking for them to be true. Is the writer a believer in christ herself, if not why try to comment on what she does not know. Are believers not free to use their money for what they want. If one chooses to go and drink all night with his money or spend it in an evening show, will the writer comment about beerhalls finishing pple’s money. If you cannot cooment on the draunkard’s expenditure, why commenting on the believer’s . Chinonyanya kukurwadzai chii with pple buying church merchandise and paying patnerships. Paunonzwa kurwadziwa nemari isiri yako uye nezvimoitika kwausina kukokwa then there is really something wrong, check who is using you, and readers should be equally open minded over what a writer is trying to achieve by an article. Is it her submission that churches should be poor, believers should not support the work of God, if people spend the whole day at church they should not eat.
      If churches are failing lets cricise for those aspects instead of just being enemies of everything and every commitment that seems to be focused torwards worchip.

      If you do not believe in God or what happens there, ko kungorega kuenda, kana uriwamwari, how came you do not cooment on the abhorent evils. One will question on whether Makandiwa is a man of God, but those same ppple will not ask what power witchdoctors use. Since we all know what power they use, why not ask why these are not condemned? It clearly shows the agenda of these writes is to condemn God’s work than anything.

      • Mwana wamakandiwa February 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

        Wat a prophetic coment.all points taken. May God of our papa bless yu with more wisdom

  9. Click January 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Since when, did devil tell the truth on the things of GOD. Ms reporter ende muri chapupu chakazara chenhema.

  10. Jonso January 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Mufero anonzi TK arwadziwa bigtime nezvanyorwa nareporter.But what TK fails to realise is that what the reporter said is the truthy.Until such time that we see real evidence of those miracles then everything happening in that so called UFIC Church if at all it is a church is nothing more than just a hoax.Makandiwa has bagloads of videos on all his sermons,cant he just release one of those videos where miracles have been captured on camera.Jesus himself showed his wounds to the doubting apostle thomas.Cant Makandiwa do the same if he really is a prophet worth his salt.Until he releases that evidence,he remains a cretin,a scoundrel,a fraudster,satan’s agent on earth and the biggest joke of all time

  11. ts January 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Jonso, l advse u kuti tanga wapedzisa scud beer riri mumaoko mako, wonorara then mangwana wava sober pamwe hauzovhumuka. doesnt it even taste sour in yo mouth to comment spiritual things iwe wakagara pamubheda wekusmall house.

  12. Car January 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Pane aito zviitawo mu bible asi

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  14. Peter Sibanda January 29, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    TAKE MY WORDS ! ! ONLY TIME WILL TELL REMEMBER MANJORO & CHITAURO

  15. good places to buy dresses January 29, 2013 at 11:47 am #

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  16. cooldude January 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Kasi Jenifa unopinda chechi dzimwe dziya dzisina kana munana unoitwa kubva zvadzakatangwa kana Mwari anoratidza kuti ari pakati pevarikumunamata? Kana uchidzimirwa nezvinhu zveMweya why dont you report on matters in which you are not destitute of comprehension. Go and research on the impact of UFI on every sphere of this country’s affairs. Research on how many widows and orphans the great Prophet of God is taking care of. research on how many he is sending to school. Dont be a cynic for emotional or misinformed reasons. I am sure your professional extols the virtues of well researched and unbiased journalism. Usaite kunge wakapinda basa ne grade 7. Waida kugara pai mukati mazara? Are you more important than the thousands who were already seated before you came? Your article is derogatory, inflammatory and malicious to say the least.

  17. Christian January 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Munyori hauna nhamo, rega vane nhamo yaibva vatende zvingavabatsire, paichakubata isina solution ndopauchatsvaka Mwari, uchareurura kuti Makandiwa munhu waMwari. Zvidzidzise kuvhara muromo wako kana usina information yakakwana pane kushora. Tendeuka nguva ichipo.

  18. Christian January 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Munyori hauna nhamo, rega vane nhamo yaibva vatende zvingavabatsire, paichakubata isina solution ndopauchatsvaka Mwari, uchareurura kuti Makandiwa munhu waMwari. Zvidzidzise kuvhara muromo wako kana usina information yakakwana pane kushora. Tendeuka nguva ichipo.

  19. zizo January 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    i’m confused now,pple understand this ”do not follow miracles,let it be otherwise, miracles wont take you to haven, follow Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” kuporofita kuchaguma uye ndimi dzichapera asi mwari ndinezuro ,nhasi ,namangwana.kana maporeswa rumbidzai mwari akuporesai kwete munhu,hongu vaporofita variko asi kana musoro wenyaya ave munhu then something is very wrong.

  20. jonso January 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Chokwadi ndechete vanhu vari kudefender makandiwa mabharanzi.vanotevera mashiripiti vachifunga kuti mamiracles.Makandiwa akauya zvinouno.saka mafuza ose iwayo aimbopinda chechi dzipi uyezve vakatiza chechi idzodzi nekuti kwaisamuka goridhe here.mityutyu yevanhu

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  23. ali January 30, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    i rili do not care wat u pple think about Prophet E Makandiwa, he is ma father and no matter wat u say that will not change what i fill and do for him. b4 i started going to UFI i was a nobody and life was bad for me, but That man that u say a lot of rubbish has changed me, i now know how to fear God,respect other people and above all respect my self. i am now happily married and have a very good job and all thanks to the anointing of the God of my father. some of u have never been to UFI and u say haisi minana and u comment,if u do not know wat hapnz ther do not comment,otherwise come and c for yo self.they are over 100 of widows ophans that are not even members of UFI that the Prophet of God looks and takes care of,how come that is never talked about. mazimbabweans mune problem ye pull him down syndrome chete.
    vamwe vairamba jesu but in the end vakazo guma voti zvirokwazvo anga ari mwana wamwari.

    for ever a son of the prophet.

    • Gina February 4, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Lam not here to attack but Ali l never seen you mentioning kuti Mwari vakakubatsira asi all your glory you give to your prophet why wazvidzikisa kuvaka mwana we muporofita than kuvaka mwana waMwari. Miracles are done to the ple in Need God is real weduwe fear him than using his name to fulfil your own desires at the expense of ple who follow you l command u to read your bible with understanding, have u ever asked God why ndichizviti mwana wemuporofita not u. Make a relationship with God do u need a mediator to talk to God Jesu is the only mediator. Ko kana muporofita asiri panaMwari nguva iyoyo and u say uri mwana wemuporofita . L hope this will help you

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  25. edson February 3, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    the bible says to they that blive, miracles, signs and wonders shall follow them as a testimony of the presence of the Holy Ghost in our. Prophet Makandiwa does not owe anyone an explanation so as to compel him to air the video in public. if anyone needs to see the miracles jst buy the video and see fo yoself how God is using the Man of God. like my coleague hs alluded to most of the critics are stil living comfortably to care abt the widows, orphans and sick pple out there. Instead of being armchair critics, come to UFI once and yo life will never b the same again. sometomes i wonder if pple need the biblical example exhibited by Elijah when he instructed Holy Ghost fire to rain from heaven and consume the messengers of the king for pple to blive that he was indeed a prophet from God. Of u dont understand tjos of God jst keep your mouth shut and maintain some integrity. Jesus said the one sin that is not forgiven is that against the Holy Spirit. This was after the pple said Jesus use the spirit of Belzebub to heal pple and not the Holy Spirit. Take heed, i rest my case

  26. Jonso February 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Gospel of prosperity blahh blahhh,Gospel of gold all over Zimbabwe blah blah,Gospel of diamonds in concession blah blah,Gospel of miracle money blah blah.For God’s sake when are these two prophetic morons( Makandiwa and Angel) or prophetic fraudsters going to stop preaching all that hogwash and start preaching the gospel of salvation.Stupert ndivo vanhu vanoendako vachinyengedzwa.

    • Big Boy February 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      wat DO U KNOW ABOUT salvation jonso shut your mouth A***LE!

  27. Charluva February 10, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    Yu are a biased writer.uri munyori anogona kutsvaga mari.l warn yu not to interupt yo journalism with the work of God. Yo story seem to be tru but let me correct yu, 1. At ufic there is nothing like militant security. 2 .at ufic yu are not only allowed in the whole during offering, rather ushers move with buckets or there is an alter in the overflow tents. 3. Dont ever dare to put Hollywood fictions and digitally edited movies in the same category with God´ s sign and wonders. 4. Reffering to offering as toll fee is an outstanding lie, .5 partnering wil not grant yu a vip seat thats a stupid lie. Sei uchiwana simba rekuenda kundosora nekushora chechi dzevamwe uchishaya nguva yekutangawo yakochechi utiudzewoka chokwadi nhai munhu wamwari. Unorwadziwa nei kana isiri mari yako irikudyiwa namakandiwa. Kana makandiwa achinyepa chitiudza maporofita echokwadi tiende ikoko. Unoshora kutengeswa kwemaDVD and other stuff uchisiya kushora vatengesi vedoro,mbanje ,pfambi,nganga zvakazara muno munyika kudaro. Young man dont be used by the devil to fight God. Yo judgment day wil come. We dont have time the end is so near .make a right decision

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