Prophet Elvis Mbonye is hip and trendier than your average flashy pastor. His wardrobe is not shy of white and pink jackets. He cuts the look of more of a metro sexual man than a “man of God”.
Just of the heels of purchasing a 2017 Range Rover, his thousands of followers are organising a Shs1m per head dinner to “honour his anointing with their finances” at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds on Friday evening.
If you can’t afford a Shs1m platinum ticket, gold tickets will be going for Shs750,000 while silver tickets will go for Shs500,000 and platinum for Shs300,000.
“Buy a ticket according to how much you can afford! But it’s better to be in faith for the higher one,” a post promoting the dinner on Facebook read. The post prompted mixed reactions with some castigating the excesses of pastors and telling off faithfuls for following Mbonye blindly while the faithful said they have received enormous blessings through Mbonye’s ministry and it’s only right to honour him in a befitting way.
“We shall be honouring him with our finances (first fruits, the best love offerings ever given in history) and LOVE all this at his feet on 1st September!! We are to buy seats on that day and it’s in categories according to how you want to stretch yourself and believe God for,” part of the post promoting the dinner reads.
Who is Mbonye
Mbonye’s Zoe Ministry started in 2014 when he started organising quarterly conferences at Hotel Triangle in Kampala. He says Zoe is a Greek word for ‘divine life’.
In a few years, he has managed to gather a following that many Pastors who have been doing “God’s work” for decades can’t command. One reason is that he appeals to a niche urban youthful audience mostly in gainful employment yet most pastors target the down trodden. With Mbonye’s crowd, a Shs1m dinner doesn’t sound “vulgar” because a couple of his flock can still buy a Shs1m table at a high end music concert.
Mbonye has also achieved success because his crowd is a collection of Christians who go to other churches on Sundays. His fellowship is on Tuesday evenings meaning he has “a monopoly” of believers unlike Sundays when they have to choose between different pastors and churches.
His popularity is also attributed to his Propeshy show on NTV, that recounts his numerous prophesies that have come to pass.
He started the Tuesday fellowships with about 100 people in 2014, but the crowd swelled and he moved from Hotel Triangle to Open House near Watoto Church and later Theatre La Bonita. The numbers kept growing past the 750-seater Theatre La Bonita and in 2015 he moved to Imperial Royale hotel. In 2016, Mbonye moved to Aya Hotel because of the overwhelming numbers, spending Shs54m a week to hold the fellowship that had grown to more than 5,000 faithfuls.
“We hire the Fotogenix tent alone at over Shs20m, the public address system and live coverage is about Shs15m and the hotel charges us over Shs10m. It is by God’s grace that we manage,” he said of the Aya fellowship in a previous Observer interview.
Aya soon became too small and he moved to Kololo Ceremonial Grounds. He recently moved to Kyadondo Rugby Grounds, just opposite his favourite hangout Rwenzori Coffee at Game, Lugogo.
Mbonye said that he was not much of a believer during his first year at Makerere University in 1998. He says that one time he returned home in Kitintale and found his sister praying with friends she had called over and mocked them.
But he had a change of heart and joined them in prayer as they were about to leave.
“I bowed down to pray. I remember asking the Lord to forgive me, and seconds later, I started speaking in a language I didn’t know. I was very shocked. I tried to hold my tongue to speak slowly in English but it just twisted and I continued to speak in tongues,” he said.
“I had a vision of God calling me to be a prophet.”
Mbonye says he felt “an electric shock shooting through him” and the entire family was caught up in prayers that attracted neighbours. The next day, he had the power to prophesy, starting with his family members.
The preacher narrated that he joined Victory Church in Kitintale for some time before God directed him to start his own ministry.
“I attended Victory City Church, Kitintale where the pastor and elders noticed my gift and put me in leadership. After campus, I had a job offer but after fasting and praying for three days, the Lord showed me my destiny as a prophet,” he told Daily Monitor.
“The Lord started meeting me on a personal level. I used to go in isolated places to pray on the hills or deserted houses just to avoid interaction and understand more of the Lord,” he says.
In 2012 he secured a place in Kamwokya where he prayed and prophesied to people before starting the Tuesday fellowships – a day he says was suggested by God. It’s from Kamwokya that he upgraded to Hotel Triangle.
Away from ministry, Mbonye lives a normal life. He is an Arsenal fan and was among the millions who mourned over the weekend when the team lost 4-0 to Liverpool. Maybe he didn’t feel the loss as much as other fans because he probably knew the team would lose as he is said to have powers to look into the future. No wonder his faithfuls call him Mr Future. (We even guess he would put betting houses out of business if he started revealing the results of soccer games).
The 41-year-old is married to Harriet, a businesswoman who has never attended any of his fellowships. Unlike most pastors whose wives minister with them, she only watches Mbonye’s prophesies on TV.
Mbonye was born in a family of seven to Leo and Teddy Ntiru of Bugolobi, who passed on in 1990 and 1996, respectively.
He went to Mbuya Nursery School, Kiswa Primary School, Kigezi College Butobere for O-level and Standard High School Zana for his A-levels. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies from Makerere University in 2004.
Defending his opulent lifestyle because he has been to heaven
He recently ditched his sleek BMW X6 with the custom licence plate “Elvis” for a sleeker 2017 Range Rover Sport and he is not apologetic about his flashy lifestyle even if some people who criticise him say Jesus didn’t own any means of transport and even borrowed a donkey to enter Jerusalem.
“The Lord showed me hell and the people who went there. Hell is stuffy, poor, sickly, and degrading. I have been to heaven and it is a glamorous place with streets of gold. All attributes about God are glamour and beauty and I’m of God, so I will unapologetically be always on the side of what is rich. You want me to be in a car where I sweat?”