By Elvis Basudde
NOT so long ago, he walked with his head high. He healed the sick, foretold the future and offered solutions to all kinds of problems. But even as the unsuspecting â€œbelieversâ€ flocked his Namulanda-based Holy Fire Ministries church, off Entebbe road, something remained strange about Prophet William Muwanguzi.
He operated in a shack of a church, made of corrugated iron sheets. Despite his humble surroundings, he lived large, dressed well and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle. He asked for gifts from his flock in exchange for Godâ€™s blessings.
Kiwedde (It is accomplished) became the middle name of the man who used contributions from his flock to purchase a Hummer he claims cost sh600m. While his followers carried ordinary number plates, Muwanguziâ€™s Hummer flashed a personalised number â€œKiweddeâ€ .
The word could not have been more meaningful after the Police closed in on one of the most elusive suspects recently.
After all that has happened to him, he should be a terrified man but he is not. At least not by appearance. With a half-moon smile, the light-skinned man of medium build and weight spread his arms wide, telling the Police that had arrested him at Katwe that he was going to pray for them to get salvation.
Pastor Moses Male, the executive director of Arising for Christ and publicity secretary of the National Committee of False Teachers Awareness (NCFTA), has no kind words for Muwanguzi. He says he is not a born-again Christian.
Male describes Muwanguzi as a faker of miracles who hires people to give false testimonies.
There were rumours that Muwanguzi originated from the Congo. The fisherman-turned preacher is son to the late Eriyazali Mukasa, of Kigunga-Bunonko Musoli zone, Entebbe. He is the second born of three children, the eldest girl based in the USA.
Muwanguziâ€™s aunt, Eroni Nampa, whose house is a few metres away from Mukasaâ€™s house, says the three siblings grew up there but she declined to talk about Muwanguziâ€™s education.
But sources say he lived a struggling life with a somewhat tough upbringing, with almost no formal education, as he spent most of his earlier years fishing at the shores of Lake Victoria.
His followers talk of strange happenings at his birth on September 22, 1976. They allege that different visions, unusual events and happenings, astonished the villagers.
It is said that a great earthquake and darkness occurred at his birth place on the day he was born. It was also said Muwanguzi was born holding a small book, believed to be a Bible, in his right hand.
Muwanguzi took up the story himself. â€œI cannot know exactly what happened the day I was born. I have only the account of the story as it was related to me by those who saw and heard the happenings. I have possessed the book since my youth.â€
â€œI did not know how the book came to be in my possession until an angel spoke to me personally when I was a boy. It was then that I learned that the book was a birthright and that the story related to me concerning my birth was true.
â€œThe turning point of my life was on January 15 1986 when I saw a vision. On that day I was with a friend playing outside our house in the field. There I saw an object like a glittering crown hanging over the sky.
I showed it to my friends pointing it out to them but they could not see it. That was about 4.00pm.â€
Muwanguzi says his second vision was on the same day at about 9.00pm. He was in the house seated between his two brothers.
Suddenly something strange happened. It was like an earthquake, the house seemed to be trembling, and the wind blew strongly inside the house.
Then a strong beam of light broke through the roof of the house and a voice spoke to me; â€œIt was a voice of an angel whom I clearly saw. I kept on ascending the sky through the house roof with the angel beside me, speaking to me, till we both reached a different world,â€ he narrated.
â€œThen I heard the angelâ€™s voice giving me instructions. From that day, I have been powered by the angel to heal the sick by prayers and to foretell the future.
He says he worked with different pastors including pastor Steven Ssozi who became his mentor and Simeon Kayiwa before he formed his own church.
â€œHe worked here like other pastors but his actions do not justify what he is doing. A leader should not mess up the people he leads. He looked promising but I do not know what became of him,â€ Kayiwa said.
Muwanguziâ€™s church is a huge makeshift structure roofed with straw carpets, surrounded by papyrus fencing and graced with a spacious tarmac compound, fitted with plastic chairs.
Ushers who are dressed to kill prepare the congregation before a moment of several activities marked by singing, wailing, groaning, sweating and collapsing of a few individuals.
When I visited Muwanguziâ€™s church last year, it was shocking to see secular musicians jumping onto the stage to entertain worshippers.
First on stage was Harriet Kisakye, (Bad Girl), as she is popularly known because of her naughty lyrics. She was followed by Catherine Kusasira of the Eagles Production, Grace Nakalema and Phina Mugerwa.
Kisakye was considerate enough not to perform her Kandahar song but all the same their songs had nothing to do with salvation.
They performed in turn before a gathering of about 1,000 people. When they were done, Muwanguzi leapt on the stage to start preaching the gospel.
Many had believed that the 33- year-old pastor was inspired by God to reveal and interpret His will, to heal the sick and to help the possessed become normal. Seeing Muwanguzi in action, you will be tempted to believe he is endowed with divine powers.
One thing that characterised his preaching was his followers collapsing on the floor.
People claiming to be possessed by evil spirit and others claiming to be suffering from chronic diseases claimed they were healed.
â€œHe is a sustainer of life and a beacon of hope for the afflicted. God uses Muwanguzi to pray for the sick and those with various problems.
He has solved problems of barreness, impotence, lack of jobs and progress at work. He has healed the blind, deaf and other disturbing forces,â€ remarked his follower, Mulangira Ndausi, a Simba radio presenter.
The pastor told his followers that miracles must happen to show Godâ€™s glory. People should see the miracles and not just hear of them. I am going to pray for you and God is going to restore your leg.
Do you believe He can do it? he asked, pointing to a man with a swollen leg
He then touched Emmanuel Sengendoâ€™s leg and proclaimed, â€œI heal you in the name of Jesus-Kiwedde.â€
Muwanguzi then told his gathering that his greatest miracle was when he prayed for a dead person in 1997 and he came back to life. Suddenly, Pastor Godfrey Muwanga emerged from nowhere to claim he was the man resurrected. He testified before a mesmerised audience.
â€œIn 1997, I fell critically ill and was pronounced dead. They wrapped me in a bark-cloth but as they were about to seal the coffin, Muwanguzi appeared. He asked what had happened and he was told I was dead.
He then prayed for me for sometime until I came back to life. Since that time, I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour, and have teamed up with the prophet to glorify the name of God,â€ he narrated.
But nobody could independently confirm whether Muwanga actually died. His background is also unknown.
People who know Muwanguzi say his behaviour is wanting.
Others say you have to part with at least sh100,000 when you go for counselling.
Muwanguzi came to the limelight early last year when on return from a trip to Israel, he astonished People at Entebbe airport when his followers collapsed in droves just at the mere sight of him.
The National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches (NFBAPC) in Uganda disassociated itself from Pastor Muwanguzi, calling him a cult leader.
â€œThey are not part of us and, therefore, not bound by the rules and regulations that govern us, â€œsays Alex Mitala, the NFBAPC chairman.