Mxolisi Ncube

JOHANNESBURG – Usually, when a person dies and gets buried, their soul must be allowed to rest, except that person may have left behind them questions that still need answers, in which case, they cannot be left to rest – until at least the world gets its answers.

Such is the story of “Elliot” or “Brighton Moyo”, the man South African pastor, Alph Lukau, “raised from the dead” on February 24 this year.

Largely unknown, he broke into instant fame following his appearance in that badly-written “resurrection” script, performed before a huge crowd at the Allelua Ministries International church in Sandton.

He was first identified as Elliot and became Brighton Moyo, but it later turned out his real name was actually Thabiso Proud Mlanje – a 28-year-old man originally from Dandanda village, Lupane, in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North Province.

Bleeding from the nose and coughing blood, he died on April 3 and was buried in his home village two days later.

According to B-Metro, one of the few Zimbabwean publications that gave a first-hand account of his burial, Elliot – as we had become accustomed to, “took his secret to the grave”. Not even his relatives got to ask him the many questions they had when he got to Zimbabwe early March because he could no longer speak due to the deteriorated state of his health.

It is quite difficult to know if all the information, some of it single-sourced, would pass the test of truth, but it could still go a long way in giving Elliot’s side of the “resurrection” mystery.

Soon after the “resurrection” stunt, Elliot heard a fraud case had been opened by the South African Police Service and immediately left Pretoria to hide in Johannesburg. His hideout was a house in Yeoville, rented by his wife’s elder sister, who also happened to be the person who recruited him to Lukau’s church in the first place.

When the “resurrection” happened, I was about two months into investigating alleged “prophesy fraud” by three South African prophets, Alph Lukau being one of them. Elliot therefore, became the central person in my investigation.

Working with some members of Lukau’s church, I went to the hideout in Yeoville on March 3 and I found him there, looking unhealthy and having what appeared to be serious chest pains. Possibly to avoid recognition by police and the public, he had cut his hair from the Afro which was trending on the video and social media pages.

Joining Allelua Ministries

Before he joined Lukau’s church in 2018, Elliot, who changed his name to Brighton Sibanda (he used a friend’s ID to get employed) when he arrived in South Africa in 2011, had been unwell for some time, with especially chest pains and coughing bouts that sometimes confined him to his bed. Apparently, when it seized him, he felt a lot of pain, but it was not always serious, until about eight months before the “miracle”.

He had been in and out of hospital, when one day, his wife’s elder sister – his sister-in-law, invited him to her church – Alph Lukau’s Allelua Ministries in Sandton. She told him the pastor was a gifted Man of God who had healed a number of people from various ailments and shared with him several videos of the pastor’s miracles at work. Reluctant at first, he eventually agreed to go to the church after some prodding.

While there, he witnessed many people give various testimonies. Some claimed they had been healed of cancer and AIDS, many said they had won court cases and others claimed they had borne children after many years of vainly trying elsewhere. It gave him hope that his time to be healed would also come, so he kept going to the church. Simultaneously, he would go to hospital, where he was receiving treatment for what could have been tuberculosis.

While he kept hoping to be the next man to receive prophetic healing, days and then weeks, passed, but the pastor kept on choosing other people ahead of him, until he decided to give up.

Only then, did his sister-in-law sell to him the idea of making “extra money” on the sidelines of the church proceedings.

The miracle

After the miracle, word on the street was that Elliot had previously appeared in a different act – rising from a wheelchair at the same church, but, according to him, that was nowhere near the truth.

He also quashed another allegation that he worked as a cameraman for Allelua Ministries, saying he was too uneducated to use state-of-the-art cameras such as those used in the church. Apparently, he had not met Lukau prior to the resurrection stunt. Actually, he had never spoken to the pastor directly, before or after February 24. All their communication went via a third party – his sister-in-law, who was one of those responsible for recruiting people to take up acting roles in Lukau’s “miracles”. Living in Yeoville, the lady recruited close relatives and “trusted friends” from around inner-city Johannesburg. Each performance was worth between R1,500 and R2,500, depending on the act.

She revealed all this to Elliot, telling him she had recruited more than 100 people who were all well-paid. Before she could tell him what needed to be done, she sought his word that he would never sell her out to the public, as she was under tight surveillance from the church security and could be eliminated anytime. She also told him he would die a painful death if he ever sold out on the pastor, as the church had “eyes and ears” everywhere, including within the police and the South African government.

February 24 was a great day, as the church would host an International Visitors Programme (IVP), which pooled visitors from all over the world to the church’s headquarters, so the act had to be of “a higher level” because the pay was also good. Apparently, each of the IVP congregants in the church had bought a ticket for R8,000.

Desperate for money, he accepted the role. His illness was worsening and he hoped to get something that would help him get better treatment at private hospitals. A day before he went for a “briefing” in the church, Elliot was seized by a whooping cough from which he passed out and was rushed to a Johannesburg hospital as an emergency case. He was turned away because he did not have proper documents. That became the setting for the “miracle” which everyone now knows.

He was promised R150,000 for his role in the act, but only got R50,000, which he shared with his sister-in-law at a ratio he did not disclose.

Not well-versed with procedure for repatriating a body to Zimbabwe, they left too many loopholes in their stunt, namely:

  • an undocumented Eliot supposedly died on a Friday evening, but was ready for repatriation on Sunday,
  • a person can only be confirmed dead by a paramedic who must issue a certificate to that regard, before they can be taken to any mortuary, but this was not done in his case
  • a burial order was not obtained from the authorities.
  • A lot did not add up in the Elliot story. He was taken to the morgue Saturday and was about to be taken back to Zimbabwe Sunday. The Zimbabwean embassy closes during weekends, which means nothing was done with them during this time frame,
  • it usually takes a minimum of three days for someone with proper travel documents to have all their burial documents finalized for repatriation of the body and at least a week for someone without proper documents, like Eliot.
  • documents to be obtained include a burial order, a notice of death, a post-mortem report, a death certificate, an embalming certificate, a non-infectious disease letter, and a permit to repatriate from SA Home Affairs ( who also close during weekends). A clearance letter also needs to be obtained from the Zimbabwean consulate (also closed during weekends)
  • a post-mortem involves dissecting the cadaver, while South African mortuaries usually pierce eye sockets and the mouth, “knitting” them while readying the body for burial
  • embalment powder, which is applied to slow down body decay, pales the skin, but Eliot looked shiny from the coffin, after three days in the mortuary
  • the “deceased” was supposedly seen moving his fingers in the coffin, where only his face should have been visible,

Contrasting information

Contrasting details of the deceased were captured at two of the funeral palours approached by the “relatives of the deceased”.

On the video, the deceased was said to be Elias, but a receipt from Kingdom Blue, where they bought a coffin for R5,500, they registered the deceased under his second name and surname – Proud Mlanje. The person who bought the coffin was entered in the same receipt as Privilege Ncube.

At Kings and Queens, the same woman hired a hearse for R2,000, but registered her name as Prudence Ngwenya. For some reason, the name of the deceased was registered under his second name but different surname – Proud Sibanda. The Date of death, ID number, Date of birth and marital status portions were all left blank, while the place of death was entered as “Hillbrow Hospital”, which in fact does not exist.

Elliot could not explain the contrasting names, but confirmed it was his sister-in-law who made the transactions at both funeral palours, while he was waiting for the hearse and coffin at a house in Brixton.

When the hearse arrived he was quickly squeezed into the coffin. His fears of suffocation were eased by assurances that the coffin would not be completely shut, leaving him with some breathing space.

The Kings and Queens driver confirmed he was prevented from getting to within reach of the coffin when he complained that it was not completely closed, with one of the “relatives” telling him that everything was fine.

Another word on the street was that the driver identified the “risen” man as having sat in his vehicle among the “mourners” as he drove to Sandton, but Elliot denied that, saying he was in the coffin all the way from Brixton to Sandton.

Life of fear

Soon after the “miracle” act, Elliot heard Lukau was angry with the loopholes in his act and that the police were after both the pastor and him, following a fraud case that had been jointly opened by three funeral palours at Jeppe police station.

His sister-in-law immediately fled to Swaziland, where she apparently stayed for a week, while he hid with his wife at the Yeoville house. During the interview, he revealed his health was deteriorating by the minute. He wanted to return to Zimbabwe to get better treatment because he feared his life was at risk in South Africa, where he could be arrested and sent to jail, thereby failing to get proper health care. He could however, not go straight to his home, fearing the wrath of his grandmother, who could have heard about his stunt. Police in Zimbabwe, might also have looked for him there, so he was looking for a better place to go, where he would get his treatment and sneak back to South Africa once he got better and “the air cooled”. Perhaps that explained why he is said to have lived at his in-laws’ place upon arrival in Zimbabwe.

Worryingly though, he was being told that the church wanted to see him urgently, but he would only go there when his sister-in-law returned. Advice he was getting from those close to him was that he should not go there, or he would be killed.

The pleas eventually turned to threats and he was told that he would die “a painful death” if he ever told anyone he was paid to perform the miracle. Even his sister-in-law – who was apparently also being threatened, told him “things are not right at the church” and that he should not go there anymore. He would not disclose who was making those threats, but revealed he changed his numbers two days after the “miracle” to give himself peace.

He also dispelled rumours that he had at some point been arrested for his act, saying he had never been questioned by police because he had not returned to his place of residence since the day of the “miracle”, sending instead, his relatives to go and get his property.

Such is the story of Eliot, Brighton Moyo, Thabiso Proud Mlanje.