Deaf-muteness may be the easiest common serious disability to feign.
Pretending to be lame or to have a missing limb has obvious complications.
Pretending to be blind usually involves prolonged shutting of your eyes, or putting on very dark goggles, or wearing special contact membranes or ‘lenses’ designed to make the eyeballs look damaged; all of which can be quite uncomfortable.
With the possible exception of pretending to be mentally challenged, at which some of our politicians from Kassanda, Arua and Igara are now expert, deafness and muteness is the condition any average performer can fake.
All you have to do is pretend that you cannot hear anything, and you cannot utter a word.
Any crude sign language will usually do. Externally, the deaf-mute looks exactly the same as other people.
A smart Pentecostal preacher who wants to impress by staging miracles would therefore do well to specialise in appearing to make ‘mute’ people talk.
For a small fee or favour, a preacher can hire many a needy person with normal hearing and speech to act deaf-mute. After the preacher has drawn out his “In the name of Jesus”, the ‘mute’ will, as planned, begin to talk.
In their spiritual power struggles; or, more strictly, in their rivalry for followers, there has recently been an increase in acrimony between Uganda’s Pentecostal preachers who claim to be following the correct path and those they have branded false prophets.
I am always amazed how these practitioners so brazenly denounce each other when they are all essentially telling the same kind of lies.
But then I check myself when I remember that Africans can be frighteningly poor at recognising categories of things.
Anyway, once a Ugandan Pentecostal preacher gets convinced that he or she has a powerful voice, is good enough as an orator and stage/pulpit performer to pull big crowds, and can by hook or crook raise some capital, you may be sure he is planning to strike out and set up a church he controls. The less gifted preachers remain underlings controlled by the big ones.
The system of master and apprentice (plus bits of dubious bible school studies) has produced tens of thousands of quacks; neo-cult priests selling salvation and claiming to perform miracles.
When the ‘graduate’ sets up shop, they may retain a friendly link with their mentor or become a ferocious rival.
Without an established liturgical form or centralised greed control, Pentecostal services, ‘crusades’ and other operations are largely self-promoting exercises where the desire for bootlickers is almost a standard vice. ‘Prophet’ Mbonye only made it obscenely overt. A brainwashed congregation is the pastor’s gold.
Last Sunday, Mr Joseph Serwadda, one of the leading ‘correct’ preachers, was a guest in Kasangati.
At every poetic image he painted in his sermon, he demanded thunderous clapping.
Naturally, he performed ‘some’ miracles, the hyped jewel of which was restoring speech to a twenty-something-old ‘mute’. After the preacher’s prayers and finger manipulations, the girl uttered two or three words.
Unfortunately, the preparations had been shoddy. W
hen he asked about the girl’s history, the mother said the girl in fact had some speech, although it was imperfect.
But then the girl’s post- miracle articulation also sounded awkwardly baby-like! Must God’s wonders come in half measures?
If an ‘authentic’ apostle cannot stage a convincing mute healing, who can fault a false prophet like Samuel Kakande for failing to hide that the only miraculous thing about his magic rice is that it was grown in a forbidden swamp?
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.