Pastor dies at ‘healing’ event

The Cape Times reports…

A Paarl father died of renal failure at Cape Town Stadium while attending a rally led by an internationally acclaimed “televangelist” – and city officials say they had to rush several seriously ill patients from the event to hospital.

There are unconfirmed reports of a second death.

It has also emerged that pastor Chris Oyakhilome, who is apparently worth some $50 million (R380m), was given a 75 percent discount by the city council on the stadium price because his Christ Embassy organisation is classifed as an NGO and is not “profit driven”.

The pastor has previously faced fraud charges.

The gathering was held over three days at the stadium, which costs a minimum of R500 000 and a maximum of R700 000 to use. Entrance to the rally was free of charge.

Mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing Grant Pascoe confirmed that Pastor Chris would only pay a fraction of the rental tariff because his was an NGO and a not-for-profit organisation. He had also been charged a discounted fee for the traffic service.

Based on current approved tariffs, if the maximum price had been paid, it would have cost R2.1m to use the stadium for three days.

Simon Williams, 56, himself a pastor, had been discharged from Paarl Hospital’s intensive care unit on Friday after doctors said there was nothing further they could do for him, said his daughter Lillian Lackay.

He died in the stadium while thousands of believers were attending Pastor Chris’s “Higher Life World Conference” where the pastor is said to perform miracles on the sick and paralysed.

“The fact that my father died at the event does not make Pastor Chris a lesser man of God,” said Williams’ son, Chardo Williams.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, head of the city’s Disaster Management team, said there were reports of a second unconfirmed death.

He said while information was sketchy, the second person might have died in hospital.

About six other seriously ill people had been rushed from the stadium to hospital late on Friday.

Smith said of the six, an end-stage terminally ill liver cancer patient had been in the most serious condition. He did not have further details.

On the third and final day of the conference yesterday, hundreds of sick and disabled people, including children, queued for hours to be “healed”.

Many of the sick and disabled said they attended the Christ Embassy’s Healing School in Salt River last week, ahead of the conference. Rona Smit from Elsies River said: “We had to register at the healing school and say what was wrong with us and what kind of healing we wanted. At the healing school they had church services and taught us to strengthen our belief and faith so that God would heal us.”

Shahied Benjamin from Mitchell’s Plain said he came for healing after he was left paralysed when he was shot in the neck four years ago in a robbery.

Benjamin was unaware of any of the controversial claims made against pastor Chris, but said: “He is capable of healing. I’ve seen it on TV. I am going to go up for prayer. It’s not pastor Chris, I believe it’s God that does the healing through him. To me it would be the best thing to be able to walk again.”

Pearl February brought her granddaughter, Jamie Lee Hendricks, 6, who was diagnosed with tuberculous meningitis five years ago. Jamie Lee is bound to a wheelchair as the left side of her body is completely paralysed.

“We came for healing for Jamie because we believe pastor Chris can do it, you can see he is a child of God and we have seen him do many miracles on TV,” February said.

Margaret Bellies came from Port Elizabeth so her blind son and her daughter, who has TB meningitis, could be “healed”.

Bellies said she suffered from arthritis for many years and was “healed” immediately when she attended Pastor Chris’s Night of Bliss event in Soweto last year.

Last year the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (Asasa) ruled that the charismatic church could not prove that its pastors could perform healing miracles and had to withdraw all such advertisements from

The Christ Embassy is an international organisation headed by Pastor Oyakhilome with branches in Cape Town and Gauteng and several others in other countries.

Yesterday the Cape Times tried to get hold of the local Christ Embassy Church for comment. Karen Victor, a local pastor listed on a Christ Embassy website, referred queries to the church’s local branch, Christ Embassy Cape Town.

But when the Cape Times called the landline number provided, an automated voice response said the office hours were from Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm.

The church had earlier paid R2.6m to have its 24-minute “faith healing” programme run on for 52 weeks.

The church had claimed that people could be cured of illnesses and diseases such as Aids and cancer.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) lodged a complaint with Asasa in November 2009, and last Wednesday the advertising body ruled that had to remove the programme.

The TAC lodged the complaint after a woman who was on tuberculosis medication stopped her treatment when she was “cured” by the church, but subsequently died.”



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