I bumped into both of them right here in the city of Dar es Salaam. One shocked me while the other one was just awesome. You may ask yourself why I did not tell you about the episodes before we crossed the chronological boundary into this land of another 12 months.
I have said one of the two preachers shocked me and obviously my delay to reveal the encounters with the so-called God’s messengers could be attributable to the shock.
I was still recuperating from it, that is. September was just coming and at that time of the year most people begin to feel the festival air of the nation’s year-end big days. It may sound much too early to start thinking of X-mass or the Independence Day at this time of the year, but the whole economical plane starts to dip towards these days inexorably just around that time. I wasn’t so much concerned about either of the festivities.
Rather, I was worried like hell about the heat for that is the time when the coastal weather is really hostile and spews so much heat and humidity that leave one wet like a frog. And surely, I was wet like one when I bumped into this mzungu (white man). If it was in the eighteenth century and I met him in the village,I might have thought he was some missionary from Christian Missionary Society (CMS), which sent Livingstone to ‘bring the pagans’ the Christian gospel of the true God.
But the mzungu was also sweating in Dar es Salaam along Azikiwe Street, making it under his own steam in the opposite direction to that I was walking in. He stopped and engaged in a talk with some boys in front of me, and distributed out some papers with a message printed on them. I joined the group and he gave me a copy of the message. Before I read it, I asked him what it was all about. “The end of the world! The Apocalypse,” he said.
I was shocked and asked him excitedly: “What about the Apocalypse?” Will we be there when it comes? Yes, we would be there and confidently the man said that the end of the world would come in September and I had better prepare for it. I wanted to know who had told him that or how he otherwise had learned that all mankind would cease to be by September 2011. It was terrible news, wasn’t it?
“It is all in the Bible,” he said and went to recite some verses he thought explained best that the Apocalypse would come in September 2011. I did not know how he wanted people to prepare for the big end. Always such preachers call for one’s repentance. This particular one told everybody who cared to listen to him the same. Do you remember Bishop Joseph Kibwetere?
The leader of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandment of God in Uganda told his followers that apocalypse would come on 31 December 1999 as a punishment for people’s failure to obey the Ten Commandments of God. When the end did not come then, under pressure from believers to return their money, he changed the date to 17 March when over 600 zealots of his faith dosed themselves with gasoline and torched themselves.
Most of them could not be recognized visually. Kibwetere was not among them. Now some people including myself, thought this mzungu was sick in the head – another Kibwetere. I am told there are some food items that you must eat carefully and slowly because if it goes the wrong way – into your windpipe – you could become crazy for some time. I thought this mzungu had eaten such food.
Things happened as if orchestrated by some religious monarch for effect. Just before the year ended and the Noel air hang heavy above the city, I came across another preacher. September had come and gone and the world was still there. If I had been scared, I was recuperating peacefully from the scare. But this other was a different preacher. He was a fellow black Tanzania and I did not know what he had eaten that drove him to make such a proclamation.
“You must know the cause of your death or you will not enter Heaven,” he preached to a crowd in the city. In Dar es Salaam one will always get audience. Lie bouts are many. “Walk with your eyes open because if a car overruns you without you seeing it, the gates of heaven won’t be opened unto you.” That was strange! There are many people who die without seeing their killer. How then did this become a sin to prevent one from entering the kingdom of God?
“God created you with a purpose, for a purpose,” he preached to the shocked group. “You will be asked to tell the cause of your death. If you were walking downtown and a car knocks you dead without you seeing it, you will be punished for not using your eyes,” he said. “The Heaven’s gatekeeper will order you to remain standing outside the gate.” He told the people Heaven was in space.
It was, however, warm in heaven, but outside in the space it was very cold. What about those killed by a sniper fire or ambushed by a man-eater they did not see? “They will be provided with an angel advocate because God himself saw the killer,” he said. “If you don’t know the name of the disease that killed you just say: ‘I died of an illness’ and you will be safe.”
The fiery preacher said we all are responsible for our bodies and so our lives. And everybody must tell God how that life was lost, how and what injured the body. “You will have to say why you were killed just as the murderer must state satisfactorily why he killed you.” The man said if a bus overturns while you are asleep aboard and you die in sleep, the angel keeping the gate will turn you back and you will remain floating in space until you remember how you died.
“All the crap about ‘God preordained my death’ or God planned how I would die, is stark nonsense,’ said the strange preacher. “God is the original democrat, Master of democracy, Democracy itself and gives you full liberty to use all the skills and the faculties at your disposal to avoid death.” I have not seen the two men since. Maybe they were predicting their own deaths. Some members of their congregation, so to speak, left muttering that the preachers were wrong messengers of God, looking for a means to make easy, fast bucks.
Anyway, this other preacher could be right. It is rather embarrassing to find yourself at the gate of Heaven without knowing how you got there just because you did not hear or see the car that killed you, isn’t it? I have trained myself to go about the city with my eyes skinned. In fact I have learned how to have them at the back of my head.