Investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw has described the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) and “Prophet” TB Joshua as one of Africa’s most influential men, who tried to bribe him during an interview.
A guesthouse under construction at the Lagos headquarters of the SCOAN collapsed on Friday.
Three extra storeys were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the church compound, where visitors from abroad flock to stay.
In a shock announcement on Tuesday night, President Jacob Zuma disclosed that 67 South Africans had died in the tragedy.
The National Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria says the death toll stands at 80, while 131 survivors have been pulled from the rubble.
There are mounting calls for someone to be held responsible for the deaths and all eyes are now on Joshua.
But the charismatic preacher insists the collapse was the result of a planned attack on him.
Pauw, author of Profit of Doom, an expose on Joshua’s church, says the preacher once tried to bribe his entire television crew.
He said he accompanied the late Blue Bulls lock Wium Basson to Lagos for healing. Basson died in April 2001 aged 25.
“Basson was dying of liver cancer and while he was there, the prophet refused to pray for him. He obviously realised that it was going to be bad publicity for him and then he handed an envelope full of $100 notes to me and the sound person. We told him we couldn’t accept it and he said it was a gift from God.”
Pauw said this is an indication of how Joshua operates.
He said Joshua wasn’t very forthcoming in the interview.
“It was difficult to find out where he comes from, how much money he has and how much power he wields. The church is also very suspicious because after we broadcast the documentary, there was a campaign against us in Nigeria. On their website, we were described as the disciples of the devil.”
Pauw said he and his crew were incarcerated in his church for almost three weeks and not allowed to leave the compound.
“You aren’t allowed to leave without the group you came with. These groups normally go for a week. You can’t leave to go to a restaurant and the gates are locked.”
Pauw described Joshua as a “soft spoken and very charismatic person”.
Joshua founded the church in the late 1980s with only eight members and at the moment he has between 15,000 to 20,000 people who attend his sermons every Sunday in Lagos.
The church also has branches in South Africa, Greece, Ghana and the United Kingdom.
Africa Report magazine recently named Joshua as one of the 50 most influential people in Africa.
“His net worth is estimated at around R170 million. The God business has been very good for him.”
Joshua also owns a TV network, Emmanuel TV, through which his Sunday sermons are broadcast live to millions of viewers around the world.
Several African leaders have traveled to Nigeria to meet with spiritual “healer” Joshua, including former Malawian President Joyce Banda and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.