He should have been a General. Instead he became a Pope

Everson Luhanga

Tsietsi Daniel Makiti, is the “Pope” of the Gabola Church in Evaton, where congregants seek comfort with the Bible in one hand and a cold beer in the other.

What is less well known is that he’s a captain in the SANDF.

Makiti spoke to Scrolla.Africa from his home in Evaton North, about his life in the army.

“We were a family of 11 siblings. I was the last born. My parents were very poor,” he said.

The army was a way out. 

But, after he joined the army in 1987, he found it was like a prison. 

“The apartheid army never treated black soldiers with respect,” he said.

The father of three said he remained at the same rank for 10 years without getting a promotion and earning very little. 

“I had to fight to be promoted to corporal and I fought my way to becoming a captain.”

He said there are many old soldiers in the force today like him who are still at junior ranks. 

“I should have been a general by now,” he said.

Before starting his church, Captain Makiti told Scrolla.Africa he had never tasted alcohol.

But then, mounting pressure and troubles at work made Makiti do something that would relieve his stress.

Makiti, the captain in the SANDF, surprised the world when he opened the Gabola Church in Evaton North in 2017. 

“The idea of opening the church was for me to see people being happy,” he said.

“I used to see drunk people leading a very happy life. Although I didn’t drink at that time I thought it would be great if I gathered these people where they drink freely without being judged.”

He said the church acts as a rehabilitation centre for the abuse he suffered in the army.

“Whenever I am with drunk people, we live a life that I never tasted as a soldier. It makes my life easy, happy and sober,” he said.

Pope Makiti said he made bishops and archbishops out of tavern owners who accepted him.

Inside the church, people swear, smoke, and drink. Everything is allowed except fighting. 

With the Bible in one hand and a cold beer in the other, church proceedings usually start at 12 midday until 3pm in the afternoon to allow sports lovers to watch their favourite games.

Hymns and vigorous dances dominate the service. Anyone is allowed to start a song without any warning. But if Pope Makiti doesn’t like the song, the singer is immediately cut off and told to stop making a noise.

“We are not alcoholics; we are drunk in the holy spirit.”

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