Blow to Pastor Exekiel as Tanzania cancels his Arusha crusade

Pastor Ezekiel, a preacher with the New Life Church, was dealt a setback on Sunday when a crusade in Arusha, Tanzania, was abruptly postponed.

At Ngarenaro Primary School, hundreds of believers had assembled in anticipation of the well publicized crusade.

However, the Arusha District Defence and Security Committee cancelled the crusade’s licence, leaving them disappointed.

Some pilgrims from Kenya who were believers opposed the cancellation, as did others from the nearby areas of Arusha.

The pastor was scheduled to deliver the sermon at the gathering over the weekend with his host, Tanzanian preacher Soni Nabii.

Worshipers had come from all around East Africa and other nations, but when police showed up at the location, they told everyone to leave right away.

Arusha regional police commander Justine Masejo said they had to act after receiving information about the meeting.

And the director of Arusha Municipality, Mr Juma Hamsini, gave four reasons for revoking the permit that had previously allowed the meeting.

One of the reasons is Pastor Ezekiel’s alleged association with Paul Mackenzie, a key suspect in the Shakahola cult deaths, which by Monday evening had reached 403.

Mr Hamsini said that because Pastor Ezekiel had been named over deaths in Kenya, welcoming him to Arusha could lead to a public misunderstanding.

The preacher is also being investigated for alleged involvement in human organ trafficking, money laundering through his church and church-registered companies, and assisting suicide.

The preacher was released on bail by the court, which also ordered him to report to the offices of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation every two weeks.

In addition to the criminal charges, Mr Hamsini said: “The procedure for getting a permit from the city is that you have to start with the director, but what happened here was that the letter was handed over by the Culture Department until the officer in charge gave the permit on my behalf without my knowledge.”

Earlier, Arusha City Culture Officer Lucy Jilanga had said they had approved a three-day gospel crusade at Ngarenaro school grounds this week, but ended the call before confirming whether she was aware that Pastor Ezekiel was among the preachers.

Another reason given for the cancellation was that the ground to be used for the crusade was a school and pupils were sitting their exams.

Another reason given was that the meeting could not go ahead because of fears of the spread of typhoid fever in some areas of the city.

Ngarenaro Ward Councillor Isaya Doita added that when he contacted the school management, they said they had not been informed of the crusade.

Pastor Ezekiel was reluctant to speak to the media about the uncertainty, but it emerged that he had been consulting with the Arusha District Defence and Security Committee until Sunday evening.

Earlier last week, however, he told the press that he had no connection with any pastor who had caused the deaths of worshippers.

He said he had gone to Arusha to heal the sick through prayer and asked those in need of prayer to go to the grounds of Ngarenaro Primary School.

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