A man who appeared in a video of the Alleluia International Ministries church purportedly rising from the dead was alive all the time, the church has admitted.
The church, based in Sandton, Johannesburg, had claimed a miracle after the man, named only as Elliot, was brought to the church in a coffin on Sunday.
But after three funeral parlours poked holes in the church’s resurrection story and called in the police, the church was backpedalling furiously on Tuesday.
Church minister Busi Gaca and pastor Rochelle Kombou described how the hearse driver from the Kings and Queens funeral parlour had run away in fear after hearing rattling noises coming from inside the coffin upon arriving at the church.
Gaca said church leaders were alerted that a hearse had just arrived at the gate when Lukau decided to go and inspect.
“As soon as they got here, they started hearing movement coming from the coffin. And you know [in] our culture, if a person is dead and you start hearing movement people get scared,” she was quoted as saying by a South Arican Newspaper on Tuesday.
Gaca said the man’s relatives who had been traveling in a separate vehicle, a Toyota Quantum bearing fake stickers of another funeral parlour, Black Phoenix, had explained that they were on their way to Zimbabwe for the man’s burial when they decided to visit the church.
She said the man’s family told pastors the man had been sick and coughing but was denied treatment by a Johannesburg hospital. They also claimed that he died while receiving treatment from a private doctor.
Kombou said: “By the time the man of God [Lukau] got to him he was already breathing. I was screaming. I saw his tongue moving. It was not a resurrection miracle, we are saying the testimony was completed by the one who is chosen to do what he does.
“These miracles of healing and deliverance were not an unusual sight at the church. The responsibility of the man of God is to help the testimony to come to life.
“The man of God completed the miracle by praying because prayer is the key.”
In the video, Lukau can be seen laying his hands on the man’s stomach as he lies inside the coffin. The man, who appears to be gasping for air, then rises up with a bewildered look in his eyes as Lukau continues to “speak in tongues”.
“Can you see what happened? This man died since Friday, he was in the mortuary,” Lukau said to loud cheers and applause. “This is a sign that no matter what the devil’s done, it is over. Devil, I told you wherever I find you I will kick you.”
Lukaku’s claim of a miracle was widely mocked, with social media users mimicking the resurrection stunt using the hashtag #ResurrectionChallenge.
Zimbabwe blog (Zim Live) reports that, Lukau’s agents bought a coffin from one funeral parlour (Kingdom Blue), used fake stickers of another (Black Phoenix) and misrepresented to Kings and Queens who hired out their hearse in an elaborate scheme which a lawyer for the funeral parlours believes took weeks to plan.
The “dead” man’s identity changed at various stages. When the coffin was purchased by one Priviledge Ncube, his name was listed as Proud Malumnjwa, and when the hearse was hired, he had changed to Proud Sibanda. At Lukau’s church, he was introduced only as Elliot, a Zimbabwean national.
Advocate Prince Mafu, for the three funeral parlours, said a police report had been filed, and the church appears to have panicked realising the police probe would show that the “resurrected” man was never dead.