Thursday, 27 January 2011

GOSHALI, A UNIQUE CHRISTIAN FAITH IN CHONGWE

BY EMMANUEL BANDA

The Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation by former Republican President, Dr Frederick Chiluba on December 29, 1991 was received with mixed feelings and differing ideas by many people.

Some thought the Declaration was imposed on the Zambian society while others were of the view that there should have been a lot of consultation before the Declaration was pronounced.

To this effect, non-Christians felt they were not part of the Zambian society and were thus reduced to a status of second class citizens.
However, the debate subsided in May, 1996, with the inclusion of the Declaration clause in the Preamble of the Republican Constitution. And since then, many things and activities such as prayers in line with the Declaration have been taking place within the country.
The Declaration was, and still is, founded on the understanding that Zambia shall be a Christian nation that would be governed by the righteous principles of the Word of God and thus Righteousness and justice must prevail at all levels of authority.
One fact that can not be disputed by anyone is the obvious mushrooming of churches since the Declaration. Other churches have since split due to various reasons, including the way of worshiping.

One new church that was born of the Declaration is the Goshali.

Goshali is actually an acronym of ‘God Shall Live’ forever. The church, which is more of sect than other religions, is found in Chongwe district of Lusaka Province.

The Goshali church was introduced by a group of people who migrated from doted parts of the Southern Province, including Magoye, and surrounding areas in the late 1990’s. 

It is believed that the Goshali are a splinter group of the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA) whose believers came to Chongwe as small scale farmers and were granted land to settle among the Soli-speaking people in Shiyala village of chief Bunda-Bunda.

Unique characteristics of the Goshali followers started becoming evident in the year 2000. They refused to be enumerated during the 2000 Census of Population and Housing and it was during this time that it was discovered that they did not have National Registration Cards (NRCs) and did not want to own them.

As if that was not enough, the Goshali do not get medical treatment or immunization against any disease because they believe that they are already known and counted by God and it is God alone who cures through prayers.

In other words, they do not belong to any government but to God only whose rules they follow and obey.

The Goshali do not take their children to any conventional school as they have their own way of teaching their siblings whom they do not want to associate with any person within the society in which they live.

They teach themselves and their children a language called Kefho and ensure that their children do not associate with other children, especially those who do not speak this strange language or anyone who is not a Goshali.

On December 30, 2010, the Goshali distributed a set of commandments or rules to  neighbouring communities and villages.

It was the distribution of these rules and an attempt to enforce them on non-Goshalis which marked the beginning of problems which consequently caused an uprising and  displacement after the local people burnt their village and church building and  the subsequent decision by government to repatriate them to their places of origin. The 31 verbatim blue print of the Goshali rules, which are hand-written, are as follows:

“Neighbours and friends living near the Goshali home, due to the Goshali’s unstoppable greatness, you are ordered to obey these rules starting from the day one receives them onwards. The Goshali wants to see decent neighbours who are ethically principled according to these rules:

      1. Do not brew alcohol (beer) at your home.

      2. Do not be an adulterer, adulteress or fornicator

  1. Do not put on indecent clothes
  2. Do not plant, sell, buy or consume marijuana (dagga)
  3. Do not quarrel using noise and insults
  4. Do not fight your neighbour
  5. You must have decent marriages
  6. Each family’s head must be responsible for any wrong deed found happening in the family
  7. If you can’t sit down with your neighbour to solve a dispute, take it to the Goshali home for help
  8. Do not be a sorcerer, witchdoctor, magician, and do not keep a sorcerer, witchdoctor or magician at your home
  9. Do not build a church at your home
  10. Do not dig rats, hunt animals or birds every Sunday 17.00hrs to Tuesday 04.00hrs in Goshali farm because the Goshali worships God during that given time
  11. Do not be a thief and do not keep a thief at your home
  12. Do not bring disputes on Monday (seiso) 08.00hrs to 11.00hrs at Goshali home because the Goshali is restricted to spiritual lessons during that time
  13. Do not bury your dead at Joe Mumba grave yard or anywhere near the Goshali home
  14. Family heads must give the Goshali about family members’ status whether they have HIV virus or not for them to be helped
  15. All people living near the Goshali farm must have their names at Goshali home for easy identification of strangers
  16. Family heads must be reporting all visitors who come at their homes to the Goshali home ecause the Goshali do not want bad strangers in the area
  17. Do not be a Rastafarian
  18. Family members must know that their lands (farm boundaries) may be changed when need be because the Goshali farm will undergo many extensions to accommodate its growth
  19. Do not sell the land
  20. Do not fight or help a fighter against a Goshali member
  21. Do not run away from your family as one who deserts his or her own family
  22. Do not be a false witness against the Goshali to any secular authority in the land
  23. Do not willingly abort your pregnance
  24. Do not allow your friend from afar to shift from his place and come to settle in your farm without informing the Goshali
  25. Do not speak to Goshali children using your language rather than Kefho which the Goshali uses
  26. Do not refuse to obey these rules, but if you choose to disobey them, two months are given to you  to decide what to do about it because no disobedient man continues to live near the Goshali, but if you decide to obey them, one week is given to you to inform the Goshali and you will live in the land as long as you want
  27. Do not pass at the Goshali home during night 20.00hrs to 04.00hrs
  28. Keep your homes and surrounding areas clean to avoid disease outbreak
  29. Keep this paper of rules safe as it serves as your licence to peaceful living as neighbours with the most powerful society in the modern world where God has set his foot. The Goshali members will be checking on you to see if you are doing what the rules order you.”

These rules were also translated into broken Chinyanja and all those who read them had to append their signatures to acknowledge receipt. The rules were meant to be enforced rather than to convert the local people voluntarily or peacefully.

But things turned upside-down on January 6, 2011 when a non-Goshali, local peasant farmer was catapulted on the head by a Goshali ‘law enforcer’ who found him working on his farm at what was considered a wrong time according to the sect’s rule.

Another peasant farmer was abducted and locked up in the Goshali church building which was painted black from wall to roof.

When word went round about what had transpired, local villagers mobilized themselves and attacked the Goshali village, beat up the sect believers and gutted their houses and property.

In the process, many Goshalis were left injured, some seriously. The ‘pastor’, Ronnie Mweemba, fled to an unknown place, leaving his flock under the responsibility of his deputy, Ody Nyangu, who also sustained two deep cuts in his head.

Due to the gravity of his injuries, Nyangu defied Goshali rules and sought treatment from Chongwe clinic where his wounds were also stitched.

Quick action by police saved the situation as they did not only provide sanctuary and security to the homeless Goshalis but also embarked on investigations which led to opening of dockets ranging from assault to arson.

The Goshali, who are yet to be repatriated to their home areas in Southern Province, are still being kept at Chongwe police station for safety while government, through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit is providing them with food till their repatriation day.

It was during a consultative meeting on January 18, 2011, chaired by Lusaka Province Minister, Charles Shawa, when a decision was reached that government should repatriate the members of the Goshali sect to their places of origin for their own safety.

During the same meeting, it was discovered that the Goshali sect was not registered, hence it was illegal.

“We are not asking them to go back to their homes because they are not Solis. We want them out of our land because they have brought confusion and threatened peace with their faith,” said Chief Bunda-bunda who had offered them land to settle as peasant farmers.

During the heated consultative meeting, Her Royal Highness, Senior Chieftainess Nkomesha Mukamabo II supported Chief Bunda-bunda’s sentiments that for the sake of peace and security, the Goshali members had to go back as the local people openly warned authorities that they would not accept them back in their communities, saying they had suffered enough.

On the other hand, ‘Pastor’ Mweemba has been sending threats though telephone SMS messages to authorities that the Chongwe people had declared total war by attacking the Goshali sect members.

The case of the Goshali sect is similar to the Lumpa Church led by the then self-acclaimed prophetess, Alice Mulenga Lenshina in 1953 in Kasomo village of Chinsali district in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.

Lenshina, formerly a Presbyterian Mission Christian, claimed that she had died and  resurrected four times before forming the Lumpa sect. She claimed then that she had died and resurrected after she regained consciousness from a deep coma following an attack by severe cerebral malaria in September the same year.

In 1958 Lenshina, who also claimed that she had a vision of Christ during her ‘death’,  boasted that Jesus showed her a book of life. Lenshina preached baptism, attacked witchcraft and sorcery, condemned alcohol and polygamy.

She also rejected registration of her church by government, refused to pay tax and declared that she had nothing to do with government and politics. UNIP considered the sect as a rival group, resulting in violent confrontations.
At independence in 1964, the Lumpa church challenged the supremacy of the new government under Dr Kenneth Kaunda and UNIP. Serious violent clashes ensued and more than 700 Lenshina followers were killed.

Lenshina was arrested but was released in 1975 and re-arrested two years later for illegally holding a church service although her movement was essentially non-existent after many followers fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) where they exiled themselves.

Lenshina died in 1978 under house arrest at her New Chilenje house but was buried at Kasomo village, her birth place.

It was the late Republican President Levy Mwanawasa, SC, who welcomed back the disbanded Lenshina followers from the DRC to Zambia in 2007. By then, the Lenshina sect members had already started working with Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) under the name of Lenshina Support Group in Mufulira district on the Copperbelt Province.
It is hoped that the Goshali does not replicate itself into the disbanded Lumpa sect of the ‘prophetess’ Lenshina. As a Christian Nation, Zambians expect unity, peace, love and tranquility. 

Christians follow the teachings of the risen Lord Jesus Christ who says he is the way, the light and life.

Do the Goshali sect members believe that Jesus is the way, the light and life if they paint the interior of their church building black?

Is the use of violence to convert people to the faith Biblically acceptable? Does the Goshali faith support the country’s governance by the righteous principles of the Word of the Almighty God?

These and many others are the questions the Goshali faith members need to reflect upon as they settle down elsewhere. 

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