Bishop Maphonga’s view of God as an African often brings controversy as they are not conventional to many.
Many praise him for his outspoken opinions and arguments. Many criticise him and accuse him of making misleading or inflammatory claims. Regardless of opposition he has firmly established himself as a teacher and a thought leader in African region. In the recent years, he’s racked up a remarkable number of accomplishments – here are a mere handful:
So who is this man? Let’s get to know him.
Remarkable number of accomplishments
- He is a church leader, writer, commentator, life coach, entrepreneur, and activist .
- He’s become the CEO of his own business, ‘Farmers of Thought’.
- He’s published a book titled ‘Going Places in the Spirit’.
- He’s very active on social media, frequently posting to his Twitter account where he has 16,800 followers.
- He is invited on prominent radio shows and is a conference speaker.
- He presented lectures entitled ‘Decolonisation of the System’
To begin with, Maphonga is a Seventh Day Adventist preacher. Throughout his life, he’s played many roles: writer, commentator, life coach, entrepreneur, and activist. Intensely interested in politics and socio-economic issues, Maphonga has spoken out against inequality, racism, violence against women, and colonialism. Blending spirituality with political commentary is one of Maphonga’s foremost skills. Here, for example, is an extract from one of his sermons:
‘Prayer is not a solution to everything. Please, go to school; don’t pray. Pray that you pass exams. Go to work; don’t pray. Prayer does not answer poverty. Poverty is an economic problem. If you don’t have a formula to turn around your economic [problem], prayer cannot help you.’Maphonga’s
A proponent of what he calls ‘#African solutions’, Maphonga speaks out on Twitter about potential ways in which South Africans can take control of their own future. ‘African identity/pride’, he argues, ‘should be the backbone of our economy’. He says that citizens should ‘read at least once a month’ in order to ‘upgrade your mental software’. Elsewhere, he posits the question: ‘Why are we using Roman Dutch law? Where and what are the African laws? Can we rewrite African law and get rid of foreign laws?’
It’s good for all of us that such a prominent public figure are working to stimulate these debates in the church circles. South Africa and its spiritual leaders must be willing to engage in robust intellectual conversations that challenge preconceived notions to liberate our people.
However, Maphonga has also said many controversial things – some of which seem to promote dangerous ideas if misinterpreted.
For example, he’s suggested that medicines that are developed in laboratories are less useful than ‘organic’ medicines. This is a misconception. While organic medicines can help some ailments, there are many illnesses or disorders that can only, at the present, be treated with medicines manufactured by corporations after many trials and tests have confirmed them useful. It is, of course, a big problem that such medicines are often inaccessible to South Africans. But the solution is not to cast them aside, but rather to demand that everyone be allowed to enjoy their right to healthcare.
At another point, Maphonga suggested that babies should be ‘free from vaccinations’. This is rhetoric taken from the American anti-vaccination movement. It has been debunked by scholars and doctors. Vaccines are not dangerous to children in any way. In fact, vaccination is vital to ensure that children grow up safe and healthy. In America and Europe, the anti-vaccination movement has created outbreaks of chickenpox which have already cost lives. In 2018, Maphonga’s views brought him into conflict with Zolani Simayi, a lecturer at the University of Limpopo who accused him of homophobia. Maphonga has since issued an apology.
The fact that someone is incorrect on one issue does not mean that they are incorrect on all issues.
The fact that someone is correct on one issue does not mean that they are correct on all issues. The fact that someone is incorrect on one issue does not mean that they are incorrect on all issues. You can find value in Maphonga’s teachings while still acknowledging that he occasionally makes statements that bring the body of Christ to disrepute. You can also dislike Maphonga’s teachings while still acknowledging that he does occasionally speak with wisdom that brings a new perspective.