Monday, January 17, 2022

Inside TB Joshua’s miscalculated propaganda

Many of us only came to know about the passing away of Senior Regional Magistrate Lorraine Makati-Lesang on the Monday of September 2, through The Monitor, a local newspaper. The newspaper had informed us that Makati-Lesang met her untimely death during a visit to Lagos where it was also reported she had gone to attend prayers at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), a church that is run by a popular Nigerian millionaire, televangelist and self-acclaimed Man of God, TB Joshua. According to The Monitor, Makati-Lesang went to TB Joshua’s church for prayers and it was while being prayed for that her condition worsened and she had to be taken to a Lagos hospital where she was allegedly certified dead.

I didn’t know the late Lorraine personally. I only knew of her official duties as a judicial officer and as was often reported in the media. However, I can claim a nodding acquaintance with her husband, having been in the same class with him while studying for a certificate in Law a few years ago. On hearing about the passing on of his wife, naturally the only thought that visited my mind was to send my condolences, which I duly did. It never really concerned me as to where his wife could have been or could have been up to when she breathed her last. She could have been in Nigeria for those Joshua prayers or she could have been in Nigeria for shopping but all that was not really important to me because, really, it makes no difference where someone dies or what someone dies doing. Anyone could die in a church, hotel room or at a bar, but after all, death is an inevitable monster that knows no boundaries. No place is out of bounds to death, including right inside the hallowed walls of SCOAN. So really, it never tickled my curiosity as to whether Lorraine had died while being prayed for, in the church, or while being attended to by doctors at the hospital.

It was only after TB Joshua’s church prepared a televised message that sought to dismiss the reports carried out by The Monitor that I tilted my head up in curiosity. In fact, before the video message was broadcast through TB Joshua’s television channel (Emmanuel TV), the church had already posted a rebuttal through its social network platforms such as Facebook. The church distanced itself from Lesang-Makati’s visit to Nigeria and at that time I still couldn’t be bothered about whether she died in their church or at the hospital. So like I already mentioned, it was only after I watched the Emmanuel TV video clip that I took interest ‘in the matter between’ The Monitor and SCOAN. I wish to state that the only reason I paid close attention to the video rebuttal was solely because it featured the late Makati-Lesang’s sister and another Motswana lady. Had the ‘characters’ in the video been Nigerians, then I would not have paid much attention to what they had to say about the death of our sister. I watched the video recording because I wanted to appraise myself with what exactly had transpired. I was certain that with the message being dispatched by her sibling, the air on how she died or at least what she was up to when she died would be cleared. How wrong I was!

I watched the 8 minutes 24 seconds-long video recording. I replayed the video eleven times and I must say the more I watched it the deeper it drowned me into the lake of confusion. Interestingly, the voice-over artist who makes the introductory remarks of the video recording says, “You are about to watch an interview of a woman whom a newspaper falsely claimed had passed away while visiting SCOAN. Let us listen as she exposes the falsehood and disgraces the devil and exalts the truth”. What the video introduction therefore implies is that the person who is being interviewed is the one whom the newspaper had reported as dead. So, the church starts off by telling lies, in their quest to expose the lies allegedly written by The Monitor. While the televised message was supposedly intended to provide answers on what really transpired, it only managed to raise more questions than answers. The interview was clearly choreographed before the late Lorraine’s sister made her statement in front of the cameras.

Ditsabatho Makati, who introduces herself as “the HR Manager” and as “Lorraine Makati-Lesang’s sister”, left me with questions that I wish I could be extended an invitation to visit TB Joshua and seek some clarity on. Oh yes, it has been revealed that one needs permission or invitation from SCOAN prior to paying a visit, for any business, including for prayer. You don’t just show up like you would at UCCSA or ZCC. In her televised message, Ditsabatho profusely and repeatedly asks for forgiveness from “The True Man of God” over the “blasphemous” reports carried by The Monitor newspaper. She bemoans the “lies” in The Monitor that link her sister’s death to an appearance at TB Joshua’s church. The first question would be, did Ditsabatho voluntarily approach the church to offer her apology or was she coerced by the church to record a public statement of apology? Who invited who here?

I quote her, “I am here on behalf of my family to really say I am very sorry to SCOAN and to Prophet TB Joshua because of all the lies said in the newspaper about the death of my sister which has all been linked to SCOAN. I am here on behalf of my family concerning blasphemous reports relating to the death of my sister. These reports were published in a newspaper report dated 2nd September. These reports are incorrect because these reports are saying my sister died in a prayer line at SCOAN which is not true and I really want pass on my apology to SCOAN and to the man of God because of all those lies. We were never invited by SCOAN to come to Nigeria, we were invited by a hotel and I can show you the invitation letter right now. This is the letter of our invitation from the hotel that invited me and my sister”. I must say that was the biggest mistake!

The letter is then handed over to her by one of the SCOAN television crew members and the cameras zoom in on the letter, a mistake that they should have avoided if at all they wanted to convince or trick even some of us who curiously scrutinize things to the minutest detail. While Ditsabatho claims they were invited to Nigeria by a hotel, the contents in the letter do not support her assertion. What is written in the letter cannot be taken, let alone be mistaken for an invitation. I had to put my video player on pause mode and carefully read through the letter. The letter from the hotel and which was actually addressed to the Nigerian Embassy in Gaborone and not to Ditsabatho or her two other companions whose names are stated as Koketso Selekanyo and Moitiri Makati-Lesang (apparently Moitiri is Lorraine’s other name) reads, “We write to inform you that the above name mentioned has indicated interest to stay in our hotel from on the 27th August. Please extend to them all the necessary visa requirements. We will make sure that they leave the country on due date”. (Note I quoted the grammar as it appears in the letter). The hotel’s name is Hard Rock Hotel & Suites and the letter is signed by one Mathew Chiyem Aghado. The letterhead of the hotel does not bear any contact details. I Google searched the hotel and while I am in no position to ascertain its existence or not, I found some things that raised my eye brows about the hotel. The little information that comes out on Google shows the outside photo of the hotel and mentions Mathew Chiyem Aghado as the hotel’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The photo shows what looks to be the backside of a building (where air conditioner units are normally mounted) and not the front view of the hotel or its signage as is normal with pictures that are normally used to advertise accommodation enterprises where the reception area and rooms would be shown. The details of the picture (there is only one) indicate that the photo was taken in May using an iPad. It is also worth noting that the hotel’s email address uses a public domain, gmail.com ([email protected]). There is also a telephone number supplied and I called the number three times but no one answered the phone (someone tells me the number is a cellphone number and not a landline). You would expect a hotel to provide a landline number and not a cellphone number. I sent an email to the address provided and I am still to get a response. My reasons for contacting the hotel was merely to enquire about the invitation that was allegedly extended to the late Makati-Lesang, as we have been told by her sister, Ditsabatho, through Emmanuel TV. So, for now, the issue of an invitation from the hotel remains unanswered because what Ditsabatho showed us is not an invitation but a letter of intent from the hotel and it was only meant for visa purposes. When I book for accommodation at, say Maun Lodge and they agree to host me, that gesture cannot be construed to mean they have invited me. It is just an acceptance of my request to lodge with them.

Ditsabatho continues in her televised statement, “When we left Botswana my sister was not well. I am here begging TB Joshua the man of God and SCOAN asking for their apology. As I was pleading with the man of God he even asked me of the support that I need. I told him that the family will be sending money from home and he asked me how much and I told him we have been given an estimate of USD2 200 to take the corpse back home. To my surprise, the man of God gave me USD3 000 towards expenses to take my sister back home. This is the money from the humble man of God, Prophet TB Joshua. This is the man who should have arrested me because of all the fabricated lies about SCOAN and him which were published in The Monitor newspaper but instead he gave me money to help me and my family to repatriate my sister’s body back home. I believe all of us as Batswana we need to be thankful to the man of God and apologize to him for all these lies published in the newspaper. All these are lies and it is very unfortunate. He is a man who is out there to help people. He gets angry at no body. So I just once again want to emphasize that I’m sorry myself and my family to TB Joshua and to SCOAN for all the blasphemous lies there. We need to apologize to the prophet for all these lies said by a newspaper back home in Botswana. I’m thankful to the prophet for all the support that he has given me and my family even though he never invited us but at a time when we needed him he assisted us. I also want to say the church is doing a lot of good work. All of us we have seen it and all we need is to say it and write it. Newspapers out there, please write what is true about the man of God. He is helping people. That is his objective”.

Ditsabatho’s statement is very loaded and as you try to decode her message you begin to suspect she made the statement under duress. She seems to have been under immense pressure. She either put herself under unnecessary pressure or she was put under that pressure. She looks and sounds scared and uneasy. In fact to prove that she may be scared for her safety you just need to ask yourself why she would say such things as “This is the man who should have arrested me because of all the fabricated lies about SCOAN and him…” Did someone threaten her that TB Joshua had legal powers to arrest her if she didn’t offer an apology? I really don’t understand why Ditsabatho had to endure such an ordeal of begging for forgiveness over something that she didn’t do. She didn’t write the newspaper article. She was never quoted by the newspaper and as such if there is an apology to be offered here; it has to come from The Monitor and not from Ditsabatho. Ditsabatho says the newspaper reported that her sister died in a prayer line but what the newspaper actually reported was that Makati-Lesang’s condition worsened while being prayed for and was taken to a hospital where she was certified dead. So it could mean she died on the way to the hospital or on arrival at the hospital. There is no where the paper says she died in a prayer line. The front page of the newspaper states that “Makati-Lesang is reported to have died while attending prayers at SCOAN”. It appears people take this to literally mean she died in the process of prayer but what this merely tries to explain is that she had gone there for prayers but died, not necessarily during the prayer session but during her time in Nigeria where she had gone for prayers. What I fail to understand is, since Ditsabatho claims that they had not gone there for TB Joshua, how did she end up at SCOAN, begging and pleading for forgiveness from the prophet. How did she end up getting financial support from TB Joshua? While she says they had not gone to seek help from SCOAN but had only honored an invitation from a hotel, Ditsabatho goes on to say “I’m thankful to the prophet for all the support that he has given me and my family even though he never invited us but at a time when we needed him he assisted us.” The question is, when did they start to ‘need’ TB Joshua? Does it mean they were at the hotel and only after Lorraine died at the hospital did they need Joshua and that is how he came to their financial assistance? Did she go to Prophet Joshua at SCOAN or did the prophet go to her at the hotel, since they were in Nigeria courtesy of the hotel and not SCOAN? Ditsabatho says Lorraine was not well when they left Botswana and therefore it only makes sense to assume she had gone there to seek help as Ditsabatho confesses that despite not having invited them, the prophet assisted them. I don’t want to believe TB Joshua went to the hotel to provide this support. They went to SCOAN to get this support from TB Joshua. How else would TB Joshua have known that there is a Motswana who died in Lagos and that she had a sister who needed financial support? The puzzle just doesn’t complete. What forced Ditsabatho to record such a lengthy apology, laced with praises on Prophet Joshua when she could have just made a 30 seconds appearance to say “No, it’s not true that my sister died at SCOAN, she died at the hospital.” This clearly was meant to be a public relations stunt meant to boost SCOAN and TB Joshua’s public standings. Why does the church get so worked up when it is suggested someone died while visiting their church? Are they trying to portray SCOAN as a place where death can never happen?

More interestingly, Ditsabatho is accompanied in the televised rebuttal by a lady called Tebogo Seramane. In the video, Seramane introduces herself as representing Batswana in general and goes on to castigate and curse local newspapers. It has since been revealed that Seramane is the Botswana representative of SCOAN. In her statement on the same video, Seramane says to our newspapers “whatever lies you are saying against the man of God, you are sinning against the Holy Spirit and that is a curse that will never be forgiven”. It saddens me to see my sisters and brother being this brainwashed. Seramane is telling us that lying against TB Joshua is an unforgivable sin yet we have been told by the Bible that even sinning against God is forgivable. Seramane calls TB Joshua the Holy Spirit. The same Seramane was on Gabz Fm on Thursday and she said Joshua’s anointing water is not for sale. It was only after one listener called and exposed her lies that she changed her statement and said people are made to pay because the water comes with a DVD CD. Why should a person who may only be interested in the so-called anointed water be forced to purchase a DVD?

As for me, it will take a lot of convincing and more than just that televised, uncalculated propaganda to buy the story of SCOAN and Ditsabatho in regard to what or why she and the late Lorraine were in Nigeria. I even contacted the offices of the Botswana High Commission in Nigeria to get an official statement on what has been reported to them. Unfortunately, they are as puzzled as most of us. They also heard about the death of Lorraine Makati-Lesang through The Monitor newspaper report. In response to my questions, First Secretary at the Botswana High Commission in Nigeria, Marang Motlaleng, said he too learnt of the passing on of Makati-Lesang through The Monitor newspaper. Motlaleng ended his response with a caution to Batswana that reads, “In so much as we value the welfare of Batswana visiting West Africa, we neither have legal rights to inquire on the nature of their visits nor do we have rights to force them to register or inform the office of their presence. However we have time and again encouraged our nationals to alert the office of their presence in our areas of coverage (West Africa).You would recall that in 2010, in the Botswana Daily News, I made a plea to Batswana to register with our Embassies whenever they travel outside the country”.

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