Of prophets, spiritual airtime, VAS and POTRAZ

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar
Emmanuel Makandiwa
Emmanuel Makandiwa

We too saw last week’s story on spiritual recharge cards by a Zim church leader, Emmanuel Makandiwa. We too found the story somewhat confusing and were eager to find out more so we could write a short ‘explanation’ of how it works, technically. Yes, just the technical side of things; it’s not our place to try to understand and explain the spiritual side.

For those of you that didn’t read the initial story, here are a few extracts from the Mail Online article:

Acclaimed prophet, Emmanuel Makandiwa, has launched “spiritual airtime cards”, a service which has opened up a personal link between him and church members.

…the spiritual link cards are going for US$3 for communication within the country’s borders only. But to communicate with Prophet Makandiwa when he is out of the country, one has to fork out double, US$6 for a different card.

… However the leading network in the country, Econet said they were not involved in the service.

Fortunately for us, the details of the story came walking right through our door, literally. No, it’s not the prophet that came to Techzim; it’s a group of entrepreneurs tightly connected to what they say is the full story. They brought the “spiritual airtime recharge cards” with them. Here are some pictures of the recharge card:


Now, unfortunately for us, these bearers of the full story won’t have us write anything about it until ‘it’s time’, so for now, we won’t.  We’ll write about what’s already in the public domain, until we get the green light.

Yesterday’s Sunday Mail had a story. The headline read “POTRAZ probes Makandiwa over recharge cards”.  According to the story, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe is investigating the church leader for operating a Mobile Virtual Network (MVNO) without a license.

The confusion around the nature of the service might have stemmed from the initial article that suggested, the cards are “airtime recharge cards”. It might also have stemmed from the church leader himself not explaining clearly what his new service is about.

Our friends (the ones tightly connected to the story) also told us it’s nothing like an MVNO. It’s just an SMS value added service they said.

How it works is that you buy a recharge card from the church, you scratch for a code and depending on your mobile network (Telecel, Econet or NetOne), you send the code to some church numbers. This registers you to receive SMS messages supposedly coming from the church leader. US $3 buys you 6 messages, which translates to US 50 cents per message. 50 cents per transaction is like a standard VAS transaction charge in Zimbabwe. If the church leader happens to be out of the country, you’re charged double the rate for each message.

Even the card says it clearly:

“This recharge card subscribes you to receive devotional messages for six days from the Man of God, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa”

It’s just a church leader selling an SMS based value added service to his congregants. Whether that is right or wrong spiritually is of course another matter.

If you’re wondering why these VAS providers won’t just do it the proper way; through short codes supplied by the local mobile network operators, well, the issue we keep hearing from VAS developers is that the system is skewed in favour of the mobile operators who are ripping VAS providers off. For a VAS transaction where the subscriber is charged US 50 cents for example, the VAS provider is required to pay the mobile operator US 9 cents and 60% of the remaining 41 cents. We’ve posted about the subject before.

image via mailonline.co.zw


  1. Robasta

    imbavha blaz uyu

  2. Macd

    The word investor should be scary if associated with church. Somebody saw any opportunity of  making a lot of money out of naive desperate Zimbos and came with that idea. ls it Makandiwa who approached these investors or is it this investors who approached Makandiwa? Either way Makandiwa must come clean and explain to people how much he is making  and what purpose is that money for.

    Whichever way it is explained, this is a high premium service they are trying to offer. POTRAZ must descend on them heavily and make sure they pay there due high premium tax back to the government.

    Where-ever there are investors behind, there is some profit to be made and on this, a lot of it. These investor should not try to evade paying takes hiding behind church.

    Even better, Jesus once told the Pharisees: Give Caesar what belong to Caesar and to God what belongs to God, Makandiwa should know better.

    Pay your due tax guys!

  3. Murwi

    Your article is weak. Why cant you just wait for all the facts when “its time” and tell us whats going on. Dzidza kunyora zvakanaka. Hapana zvawataura apa.

    1. guest speaker

      wakapusa Murwi ndosaka wakaita zita rakashata! vaida kuti MVUWU! unodyiwa mari makasvinura kunge matemba nhai !!!! fooolish people!

  4. Maston Zi

    One wonders where some people get all fired up over things they have no idea about. The Prophet Makandiwa never introduced the cards to the whole of zimbabwe just to the UFI family and anyone else interested. Its also funny how papers love to write about money but not the sick people heals or the lame walking or families being transformed. Silence is better sometimes lest you bring a curse o yourselves..

    1. Macd

       At the end of day Makandiwa and his UFI are Zimbabweans and they are governed by the laws and regulations of Zimbabwean government. Whether the cards are for UFI members only or not does not matter, the law of Zimbabwe is supreme to every Zimbabwean whether you are christian, muslim, hindu, buddist, traditionalist or whatever. On this issue, the supreme law of Zimbabwe must be observed through regulatory body POTRAZ.

      If UFI and Makandiwa do not want to gain the attention of POTRAZ, they must stick to what they do best. POTRAZ is not stopping them from selling cards, they just want to make sure relevant rules are being followed for such service. lf they don’t want to follow those rules and pay tax, they must be stopped.

    2. vince

      ana maston makutonamata makandiwa kaa

    3. Robasta

      mucharigwa mari, rangarirai kuti  $$ is the root of evil. Kereke haifaniri kukoshesa mari

      1. Bensonmbewe2000

        Who lied to you that $$(dollar) is the ROOT OF ALL EVIL?

    4. Guest Speaker

      Maston maston ! iwe pachako uri munhu wa Mwari! you ur self u can change your life ! uyu wamunoti Makandiwa uyu ! munhu akafanana newe! hongu anotaura shoko raMwari asi avekubira vanhu. Mbavha hombe haibire vanhu ! imi vanhu ndimi monoipa mari!

  5. Katumbaitayi

    Ana Maston munokurumidza kuita hasha nekuthreatena any one who sees things differently but you are a christian and you should not be quick to threaten people with curses to silence them. You want us to talk about people he has healed and the lame who have walked on his account but tell you what, thats achaic, I am tired of pentecostals purpoting to ndo munana to people unknown to the church or to anyone. We have had lame relatives for years but since time immemorial, none of them has been successfully healed by a pentecostal pastor…Makandiwa included. Your excuse…they dont believe!!! make them believe through those miracles. M sick an tired of ple wt no history in the church unbeknown to anyone being healed. Dont tell me visitors pacruidsade… believe. I honestly think this is a way of making money and it is very sensitive to the congregation’s needs yet we have networks already in place who can deliver those devotional messages to those who would have subscribed to them by sending a request to a prescribed short code. money money money. This could be done for free since ple already pay tithes and offerings. remember the main ojective of a ministry is to win souls.

    1. Anesu Kanengoni

      no one is being forced to buy the air time.Those who say kuti tiri kudyirwa mari do not buy this airtime or even give thier money to the church.so mari irikudyiwa ndeyedu haisi yenyu.personally i say yangu mari ndinotoda kuti idyiwe na Prophet Makandiwa.The messages he sends us have changed my life.u should read galations6.6 and 1timothy5:17Preachers n teachers have a right to be rich.People do not even see more than 100 families that are assisted financially by the ministry.they only see what they want to see

      1. jubby ringss


    2. Misticmistico

      Tinomuda Pastor anoventure venture akamutsa handika . Not a traditional pastor who accepts the status core . Those who criticise him i say get behind us satan .

  6. Tech Supporter

    This should be seen as a great victory for young entreprenuers over the Evil Mobile Operators. Obviusly if the service is making so much noise it can only mean one thing, its making money. They have found themselves a ready market taking into account the number of multitudes Makandiwa draws to his congregation. Its good they should align with Makandiwa. This sounds more like a win win situation as compared to the you work, we win situation of mobile operators.

    Its virtually easy to set up such a system of sending SMSs. The difficult part is the revune collection. These guys have solved it. As for Makandiwa he should be commended for his willingness to take up new technology in his pursuit of spreading the word. I just hope the guys lower the price or increase the number of SMS per card. I think 50c an SMS is being greedy taking into consideration that the SMS costs less tha 5c. 
    I think others should follow this fine example

    1. Macd

       …. and they should also be guided by regulations as per POTRAZ instructions.

  7. X4lyfbabe

    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. {2} People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, … rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

  8. jay

    Good startup idea Prophet as if money from people’s tiithe is not enough

    1. Guest speaker

      The prophet is greedy! hahahahaha

  9. Godknows Toodd

    profit  sorry prophet makandiwa is doing good things he spreading the word. I get annoyed by people who do not laud what is good. Man of Gold sorry man of God must not be challenged by you uncircumcised Zimbabweans. go mak go you are a warrior God will reward you accordingly.


    With all due respect Mr G Toodd  judge not for you will be judged as well but that does not mean that i condone what is bad. 

  11. Godknows Toodd

    @tchivero the man is making money out of nothing he should stick to preaching in churches and why should he charge double when he goes out of the country he should at least use some of prophets sorry profits back home to cover for times he will be out of the country. Chivero dont protect people who can not protect themselves. there is asying in Swahili that says kama nimbaya nimbaya meaning what is bad is bad there is no room for condoning immoral things especially in the Christianity realm. Lets call a spade a spade not a big spoon this profit makandiwa is a crook who efforts are bent on cashing on the gospel and miracle  thirsty people. he should leave the bible and join MASIWA, MAKAMBA ,NETONE VODAFONE etc if he wants money. I knew when he went astry when he broke away from AFM i knew that this young man is up to know good.

  12. Captain JT

    This is all day light robbery. Why can’t people open their eyes and see, if this is a way of sourcing funds to build a church or anything, it must come open. Ana Kapfupi vakamboita maDrama vachiti vanhu vabvise mari kuti vafone kuna Mwari….this is axactly what they meant. I’ve personally seen what one message looks like from one follower of Makandiwa & it was nothing but just a quote frm the bible. Open your Bible and read on your on!!!!

  13. Captain JT

    This is all day light robbery. Why can’t people open their eyes and see, if this is a way of sourcing funds to build a church or anything, it must come open. Ana Kapfupi vakamboita maDrama vachiti vanhu vabvise mari kuti vafone kuna Mwari….this is axactly what they meant. I’ve personally seen what one message looks like from one follower of Makandiwa & it was nothing but just a quote frm the bible. Open your Bible and read on your on!!!!

  14. Chinabeautifulgirl

    takakuudzai makaramba kuti machurch enyu aya , are now income generating projects makaramba.But not a surprise to me at all i saw this coming from makandiwa, because mharidzo dzemari ndo dzake.

  15. Anonymous

    Yes i agree the story is very hollow and there is no sign of investigative journalism.Get the facts first and then publish.

  16. Lionel112rtn

    These guys r more concerned abt money than the people they should be serving God with. Whatever happened to seeking the kingdom of God? Inga it’s written…. “Fear God and Keep His Commandments. For that is the whole duty of Man”….. and all is vanity… People lets be realistic here…. This whole prophet this , prophet that .. has to stop. Please save your souls and stop worshiping a man just because u need something to base your faith on. Please follow your hearts and focus on God and stop this madness of worshiping a human being like yourselves. The truth will come out about how this deal came through and we will all see where everyone stands. Just be careful people.. just be careful!!!!

  17. Ngoni

    Iye akatanga nenyaya dzekuparidzira vanhu kuita mari ndiyani iyeye, where did you get this rubbish. Hanzi seek the kingdom first, so imi mava convinced kuti you are done with seeking the kingdom so you might as well start looking for ‘everything else’. Hanzi everything will be added hazvina kunzi you will have to look for everything yourself. How can you devote a whole sermon, sometimes overnight, to the preaching of making money, in church. Handizvo here zvakazvamburirwa makoronyera aya naTenzi wedu Jesu Kristo mutembere. Seek the kingdom guys, rambai muchinyengetera (1 Thes 5:17), saka nguva yekutaura zvemari inobvepi, haasi Satan here ari kutorera Mwari nguva yekunamatwa nevanhu achishandisa vanhu vakaita saana Makandiwa kuti vadzidzise buseness studies muchechi. Even Ashimolowo had to fly to Zimbabwe for two sermons, one of which was closed to the povo, it was only for the top guys, attendance was by payment, and it was about business. Matsotsi mhani aya. Makandiwa enda unovhura business school kuborrodale kana kwaGumbonzvanda uko, usiye zvekupedzera vanhu nguva. Ko imiwo vanhu – haa rega zvinzi kwadzinorohwa matumbu ndiko kwandinomhanyira. How many Billionaires has Makandiwa, or any such guy e.g. Ashimolowo, Oyakhilome etc created ever since they started business, of course except themselves. Havangatadzi kupfuma ivo vachitithisa bigtym. Why cant they take their financial blessings sermons to the rural areas, to the farms and mine compounds, coz they know folks out there are hopeless, their chances of becoming even thousandeers are just slim even by coincidence.

  18. Bruno_kaz

    there is a problem when christians get angry to people who want an issue clarified further…………..Jesus Christ discussed with people in the synagogue and the Bible goes on to quote Isa:1:18: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool………………………………this is an example that even God value dialogue……………….why therefor are some christian elements quick to dismiss dialogue and clarity when it is necessary

  19. food for thot

    These days, millions of souls, desperate for financial breakthroughs, miracles and healing, all rush to the church for redemption. And while the bible expressly states that salvation is free, at times it needs to buy literature and other products created by men of God.Pastors are no longer solely interested in getting people to Heaven; they’ve devised intelligent ways to make good money while reaching out to souls.This is precisely the case here. jus a few examples;
    Take Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, for example. He is the founder and lead pastor of the Christ Embassy, a thriving congregation with branches in Nigeria, South Africa, London, Canada and the United States. His publishing company, Loveworld Publications, publishes ‘Rhapsody of Realities,’ a monthly devotional he co-authors with his wife. It sells over 2 million copies every month at $1 apiece. He also owns television stations, newspapers, magazines, a hotel, a fast-food chain, and more.Some rich pastors:
    Bishop David Oyedepo
    Affiliation: Living Faith World Outreach Ministry, aka Winners Chapel
    Estimated net worth: $150 million
    Chris Oyakhilome
    Church: Believers’ Loveworld Ministries, a.k.a Christ Embassy
    Estimated net worth: $30 million – $50 million
    Last year, the charismatic preacher was at the center of a $35 million money laundering case in which he was accused of siphoning funds from his church to foreign banks.
    Matthew Ashimolowo
    Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC)
    Estimated net worth: $6 million – $10 million
    In 1992, Foursquare Gospel Church, a Nigerian church, sent Ashimolowo to open a satellite branch in London. But Pastor Matthew had other ideas and decided to set up his own church instead. Today, his Kingsway International Christian Center is reportedly the largest Pentecostal church in the United Kingdom. In 2009, the church posted profits of close to $10 million and assets worth $40 million. Ashimolowo earns an annual salary of $200,000, but his real wealth comes from varied business interests including his media company, Matthew Ashimolowo media, which churns out Christian literature and documentaries.
    Chris Okotie
    Church: Household of God Church
    Net worth: $3 million -$10 million

  20. Edwardmutandiro


  21. Zuruvi

    a lot of people will be dissapointed kwaMakandiwako, coz others vanga vakutonamata iye

  22. Zimartt

    kungwara kwake, fungawo zvako, you lazy people

  23. Munya

    I am very happy with this idea of SMS ,zvinotibatsira mweya yedu kunzwanekuverenga shoko.We love the idea .Ku SA tirikutoshaiwa kuti tingawana sei ma DVDs avo.

  24. Dgar!

    I do really see that many people are just angry at Prophet Makandiwa here! The tech guy is explaining how the VAS system is expensive in Zimbabwe and why it is so. Each sms being charged for $0.50 is the norm, whether its Prophet Makandiwa’s sermon or you want to vote on Big Brother etc. It is the type of technology used that is expensive. As to what the prophet teaches about, we are all entitled to our own opinions and I do go to UFI 3 times a week and I love it. My neighbour mupostori and mumwe anoenda kun’anga so what? Mumwe nemumwe achanomira nezvake and isusu tichanomira nazvo. The Bible is one but we have Lutherans, Methodists, Seventh dayers, Catholics etc. Ngatisaitirane hasha nekuti tasiyana, who amongst you has a guaranteed place in eternity? Let the prophet be, and go to your church. For your own information he also preaches about the end times, and there are dvds to prove it. Don’t just be listening to pastors who now have empty churches, they are wounded animals and they are dangerous.

    And someone wants the service for free! Really? That’s why you never progress in life wanting everything for free. Is the bible for free? but it is the word of God!

  25. Misticmistico

    Deut. 32:12 The LORD alone led Makandiwa; no foreign god was with him.
    Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa went on a mission. Deut. 32:12 The LORD alone led him; no foreign god was with him. The devil is a liar .He is a great teacher of the word .Those who demonize him are fuelling the anointing upon his life we like that and we receive the persecutions with thanks giving. The more he is persecuted the more God raises a higher standard and uncommon level of anointing. Those who throw fieces at him we tissue reject that in the might name of Jesus Christ 1Ch. 16:22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm, says the Lord. These are the results of his persecution coming forth, that is his harvest fruits have ripened. And its now harvest time.
    1)      High levels of anointing , boldness and prophecy
    2)      Loyalty of members
    3)      Growth in church membership
    4)      Popularity of his mission in Zimbabwe
    5)      Excellence in worship
    6)      Unity and direction of purpose in the church
    7)      Wealth in the church
    8)      Heavenly teachings
    Ezekiel 3 v 8 and 9 Behold I have made thy face strong against their faces , and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint (rock) have I made thy forehead.. fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house .Deut. 32:10 In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, Deut. 32:11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.
    These are the results of Makandiwa’s persecution coming forth, that is his harvest fruits have ripened. And its now harvest time.
    1)          High levels of anointing , boldness and prophecy
    2)          Loyalty of members
    3)          Growth in church membership
    4)          Popularity of his mission in Zimbabwe
    5)          Excellence in worship
    6)          Unity and direction of purpose in the church
    7)          Wealth in the church
    8)          Heavenly teachings
    Ezekiel 3 v 8 and 9 Behold I have made thy face strong against their faces , and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint (rock) have I made thy forehead.. fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house .Deut. 32:10 In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,

  26. Lionel112rtn

    @Dgar!, lemme educate u on these SMS service charges. That service he is using costs $0.03per SMS. and the more SMS’s he sends, the lower he will be charged as part of the bulk SMS guidelines and marketing of bulk SMS companies. So charging pple $3.00 for 6days really is too much. Are u trying to tell me that the word of God which “comes” to him for free is that expensive? Please lets be realistic here! and as for the technology used??? I’l tell you this, he has a computer he uses as a server , say with high speed processing and a GSM modem, which by the way is less than $120. So i dont see how those charges can be justified. has it gotten this far that we are charged this much. And i can assure you that the cards themselves did not even cost over $200for every 1000 printed! so please please.. this is jus a quick retuns business here….
    If he wants to offer the service to pple then fine! but not kurova vanhu mari like this guys!!!!!!

  27. Madzva

    if makandiwa’s scandal is worthy of the disintergration of the church or that it prooves otherwise of his personality God himself will prove it beyond reasonable doubt.