In God’s name you are now an ATM




Funny — in the same week as I got an email purporting to come from Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, offering me millions in prosperity-gospel monies if only I’d send them all my personal banking details, it was announced that the African Transformation Movement (ATM) would be holding a “mass prayer meeting” for the public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

It was also the week in which Gavin Watson, the “corruption mastermind” of the former Bosasa company, died when the car of which he was the only driver crashed into a highway pillar at OR Tambo airport, the day after he had held a 6am prayer meeting at his company’s headquarters.

Some are saying that Watson’s prayer meeting added a suspicious detail to his death, but in fact it’s known that Watson held such prayer meetings every day at his offices, and staff were obliged to attend — as well as to contribute their prayers out loud. So it’s not like this was a special occasion, one in which Watson, say, would clear his balance sheet with the Lord, ask forgiveness for his sins, and then plan his own death for the next morning, early.

You’ve got to wonder, though, what the content might have been of prayers so loudly declaimed. “Oh Almighty Lord, please protect us from all those evil whistle-blowers such as our former associate Angelo Agrizzi, who has ratted on us to the Zondo commission — yea, Lord, ’twas the work of the devil that he did! You protected us from the forces of law and order for, like, 10 years, Lord, and kept our sneaky dealings under wraps, so please do it again! Please make all our compromising documents (the ones we haven’t destroyed already) disappear in a puff of holy smoke! Let not the likes of Nomvula Mokonyane, to whom we delivered crates of frozen chicken every weekend, turn state witness!”

The prayers of the ATM, which is a different kind of ATM to the one Shepherd Bushiri would like to make of me, are more apparent. Its press release, branded with the logo of what appears to be a tin of sardines, says one Servant Vuyo Zungula will assist in importuning God on behalf of the public protector, who is “fighting for the people of South Africa”. In direct contradiction of a recent court judgment on the public protector’s work, the ATM claims she will “do whatever it takes to be the defender of the voiceless and poor”.

But how will they formulate that in their massed prayers?

“Dear Lord, Almighty God, please protect the protector from the high courts of the land, which want to destroy her sacred mission by declaring her reports wrong and some of her utterances to be lies. These were not lies, Lord, but words in the service of your mighty will — which is to preserve the flow of state monies to private but very religious pockets.

“Give strength to the arm of Sister Mkhwebane, oh Lord, as she bashes those who delivered unto evil our great mentor, Jacob Zuma! Give us that money, Lord! You promised us riches, so we’re waiting for the cash! Praise Jesus!”

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Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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