In the perspective of the public, notorious preacher Paul Mackenzie is a culprit who lured hundreds of his followers into fasting to death in the infamous Shakahola forest.
However, Mackenzie’s wife Rhodah Maweu believes her husband’s conscience is clear, and she believes it is only a matter of time before he is vindicated.
Maweu stated in a first-ever media interview that her spouse of four years was not engaged in the over 429 killings reported at Shakahola.
“Personally, I have asked him about all these (deaths), and he has always said he never killed any person. From the horse’s mouth, his conscience is clear,” Maweu said.
Speaking outside the Shanzu Law Courts on Monday, Maweu, a mother of one described, Mackenzie as a family man who is very supportive of his family, children and his ageing mother.
“He (Mackenzie) has his mother, family and children, who are all dependent on him. Right now, the family is really traumatised, especially after all these stories. We cannot get help from anywhere, maybe just from close family members.”
Maweu, who refused to reveal her age but said she is now chasing her 30s, came to the limelight after her arrest on May 2 this year, on the accusation that she was living with Mackenzie at Shakahola, where they oversaw the deaths and burials of the followers of the Good News International church.
She was arrested in Mtwapa two weeks after her husband’s arrest on April 15. She was with her daughter, who is now three-years-old.
However, after 62 days behind bars, Maweu was released by the Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda on Sh400,000 bond terms.
In the ruling on July 3, Shikanda said the state had failed to prove why Maweu should continue being held with her husband and other accused persons.
He said it had only been mentioned that Maweu is believed to have resided with Mackenzie at Shakahola.
“There is no allegation that she was involved in any of the impugned acts. If her only sin is being the first respondent’s wife, then her continued detention would be unwarranted and unfair,” ruled Shikanda then.
Mackenzie and 27 other suspects are still being held in prison facilities in Mombasa, Malindi and Kilifi, and the state on Monday applied to continue holding them for yet another six months.
The Shanzu court is expected to make a decision on this new application for an extension of the detention period on October 12.
Maweu has for the first time talked about her relationship with Mackenzie and the tribulations they have gone through as a family for the past five months.
In an interview with the Star, Maweu said she met Mackenzie in Nairobi in 2019, just a few months before the controversial preacher supposedly shut down his church in Malindi town and moved to Shakahola forest to take up farming.
Mackenzie, who is now 50 years old, had been married twice before he met Maweu, who was working in a hotel in Nairobi.
Mackenzie’s first and second wives died some years back and were buried in Malindi. They left behind six children.
Maweu, it is believed was less than 25 years old when she met the controversial preacher during one of his many ‘ministerial works.’
“We met in Nairobi while he was doing some ministry work (preaching). He used to come to Nairobi many times and he is a person known to many. He married me after being in the ministry (pastoring) for so many years,” she said.
She said after arriving in Malindi, they did not stay long before the Good News International Church was closed down.
“However, we did not move to Shakahola as it has largely been reported. We used to go there occasionally. It is just like having another homestead somewhere, where you are doing some investments or farming. We did not move to that place,” she said.
However, she confirmed they have been to Shakahola several times.
“I do not have many details of how he (Mackenzie) acquired the land in Shakahola. I have been there several times, but the whole of this year, I have not been there,” she said.
At Shakahola, she said, her husband was doing farming and the area was bushy with only a few houses around and along the main road.
She said since their marriage in 2019, she has considered Mackenzie as her husband and not as a pastor as he is regarded by many.
“As for me, I was living with him as my husband, my man, a family man, that simple. Not as a pastor. I wouldn’t say that I was living with a pastor, but I was living with him as my husband,” she said.
She said after marrying Mackenzie, she had to quit her job to concentrate on building her new family.
“I had a job. I used to work in a hotel in Nairobi, but I quit because my child needed my attention. I wouldn’t describe myself as a housewife, but rather a homemaker,” she said.
About Mackenzie’s controversial preaching, Maweu said she does not have much to say because immediately after their marriage, her husband shut down his church.
“I’m not much into his preaching because after marrying me he did not stay for long before he shut down his church,” she said.
Maweu said as a family, they are ready to receive back Mackenzie after his release either on bond or after being acquitted.
“Malindi is not safe for him, but he has family and relatives in other parts of the country and we are ready to welcome him back, but I believe there would be limited movement for him after the release,” she said.
Maweu has been allowed to see her husband at least once every week in prison, but she has been bared to be with her daughter, who is now under the care of her aunt in Malindi.
“The child is doing well. I usually see her in court. She is under the care and protection of my aunt; however, I’m not allowed to go see her. I usually see her whenever our matter comes up before the Malindi court,” she said.
The police have also failed to return Maweu’s identity card and she has been forced to apply for a police abstract as she awaits replacement.
“It’s like I’m still under house arrest because if you don’t have ID you cannot access many services. Anywhere you go, they keep asking for ID, ID, ID,” she said.
Currently, Maweu is staying with another aunt and has been surviving on support from her parents, relatives and friends.
“My parents, my aunts and my uncle. They have really been supporting me,” she said.