In an episode of SABC actuality show Cutting Edge on Tuesday night, further allegations of fraud and deception emerged against the miracles industry in South Africa, particularly those involving pastor Alph Lukau’s Alleluia International Ministries.
Lukau shot to prominence last month after he appeared to raise an allegedly dead man out of a coffin.
He referred to the “resurrectee” as “Elliot”, although the Zimbabwean man in question has also been called Brighton Moyo. Lukau and his lawyers have claimed that Elliot had been totally unknown to Lukau prior to the “miracle”, though some individuals Cutting Edge interviewed alleged this was unlikely and that the man’s family was apparently known to have worked with the church prior to Elliot’s “resurrection”.
The church allegedly preys on and recruits the poor, and immigrants in particular, with one person interviewed, Samantha Revesai, claiming she was asked to fake her HIV-positive status and play along with the ruse that she had been healed after supposedly living with the disease for three years.
She claimed the church had offered her payments of R1,500 per month to stick to the story. The church allegedly also created fraudulent medical paperwork using her name in an attempt to convince congregants that she’d gone from being HIV positive to negative.
There are only two documented cases in human history of people with HIV being cured. Neither of them was Revesai.
“I was not [HIV] positive. I was never positive.”
She claimed she hadn’t even known this was going to be done on her behalf, but she’d played along anyway.
Blessing Kwemelao claimed to have recruited people such as Revesai to be part of Lukau’s “miracles”, with his recruits allegedly then trained to act as though they had various disabilities that could be healed, or to play along that they’d been cured of disease, including cancer.
Kwemelao admitted he had worked as part of three to four teams to find people to allegedly take part in staged miracles. He said that, due to his strong build, he had helped to carry actors with fake disabilities and had given people stage cues during services for when they should come forward to claim they’d been healed.
Elliot’s timber yard employer, Vincent Amoretti, repeated allegations that he had heard his employee had previously done “stunts” with the church.
“From what I can understand, his wife, sister and aunt work with the pastor (Alph Lukau). And that’s how he got in.”
Cutting Edge also visited Elliot’s residence in Nellmapius, east of Pretoria, where they found a community divided about the resurrection video, with most of the individuals they found saying they were not convinced.
An anonymous person who claimed to know both Elliot – apparently a father of two – and his wife, claimed the church had tried to get her to act in a stunt for the church, doing something involving rats or snakes tucked into her clothes. These creatures were allegedly to emerge at the appropriate time during a service.
“Grace”, one of Elliot’s claimed church friends from Nellmapius, told the show that people agreeing to act as “cripples” could be paid R3,500 each.
“They don’t want South Africans … they want Zimbabweans because they’re untraceable.”
Elliot’s friend “Paul” claimed he’d last seen the resurrected man on February 21, a day before he allegedly died.
“He never died, he was also never sick. He left on Thursday,” Paul said. “They only act to get paid and make ends meet.”
Cutting Edge could find no documentation or testimony from a medical professional as evidence that Elliot had ever been officially declared dead, which would have been a necessity if his lifeless body had indeed spent three days in any mortuary as claimed.
The Kings and Queens Funeral Service company repeated their protestation that their hearse had been used under false pretences. The Black Phoenix Funeral Parlour also distanced themselves from the whole affair.
According to Elliot’s friends, he has probably fled the country and gone back to Zimbabwe.
Various orthodox and more conservative religious leaders interviewed on the show expressed concern about Lukau and how what he was doing was driven by the commercialisation of religion and the desire to obtain money from believers.
The church’s lawyers have vehemently denied that Lukau ever directly claimed to have performed a resurrection miracle.
Church spokesperson Busi Gaca, however, dismissed all claims of fakery as “ridiculous”, because in her view that would mean God was apparently not real and, in her opinion, God should be thought of as real and not a “wooden God”.
Similarly, she maintained that Lukau’s miracles were real due to the alleged realness of the particular monotheistic deity that is promoted by the Christian faith.
She dismissed all allegations that the church pays actors to be part of staged events.
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)