“One-on-one” or “consultation hotels” are motels built by wealthy evangelical prophets to offer personalized “spiritual services.” And they are driving a mini real estate boom in Zambia’s biggest cities and even in neighboring countries.
“To see a senior prophet, the fee is $300 per week per person,” explained Desire Lokla, a supervisor with Enlightened Christian Gathering, one of the most popular evangelical churches in Zambia and neighboring Malawi. “We are overbooked especially in December, and people fly in from outside Zambia.”
This has been happening in the last decade, while charismatic Pentecostal prophets are wildly popular in Zambia and surrounding countries and are slicing off huge chunks of believers from old, legacy churches like Anglicans, Baptists and Methodists. These prophets are fantastically wealthy in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, countries that have some of the world’s highest poverty rates.
To increase their wealth, these prophets are going into real estate, building special “prayer consultation” boutique hotels to meet demand for personalized “spiritual consultations” from thousands of their followers.
“Here in Southern Africa, a typical couple without a job would rather pay to meet a prophet for private consultations than obtain a new college diploma,” said Fani Sanoma, a retired Baptist pastor in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. “The prophet is seen as a mini god, a solver of personal issues.”
“I paid $200 to book a prophet’s consultation service and get some spiritual insight on the illness and mental health issues plaguing our family. It was worth it,” said Reginald Sakala, a Pentecostal believer and electrician. She spoke while cabling the 20 rooms of a boutique mini-hotel being built by a popular prophet in Livingstone, Zambia’s second largest city.
Worshippers from across Zambia and neighboring countries drive or fly to pay consultation fees for private spiritual sessions, Reginald confirmed.
“It works like magic. I paid $150 for a one-on-one prayer consultation with the prophet and my marriage, which was on the verge of collapse, recovered very well,” testified Siya Bongi, a husband and an Anglican who set aside his traditional Christian beliefs and turned to the prophets-led churches. “In consultation hotels, the pastor goes into a trance, dreams about your future — narrates your past life events and prophesizes the future. It’s worth the money and it’s the kind of spirituality you can’t obtain from old Baptist or Anglican churches.”
Real estate planners in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, told BNG the newest boutique hotels and motels popping up in the capital’s posh suburbs are owned by charismatic Pentecostals.
“We can’t get enough of building these small hotels for prophets who want to consult,” said Benny Gashela, secretary of the Lusaka Home Builders Forum. “Without major government or corporations’ investment into real estate, these prophets consultation hotels are our third largest source of business now.”
Critics bemoan that these prophets are fantastically wealthy in Zambia where 47% of the population is “multidimensionally poor,” according to the United Nations.
“Imagine having a street fruits seller coughing up $200 of their savings to book a prophet’s consultation hotel for a weekend instead of increasing their business lines,” said Stella Achite, coordinator of the All Zambia Religion Observatory Alliance, a body where members of the public can voluntarily report social rights abuses in faith organizations. “The spiritual consultation hotels where believers are charged to see prophets privately are a money grab to be honest.”
Moreover, scandals sometimes filter out of female worshippers raped or molested while attending their spiritual consultations in private hotel rooms with prophets, Achite added.
“Who knows what goes [on] behind the curtain when a male prophet meets a woman for private spiritual consultation in a fancy boutique hotel owned by the prophet,” Achite said.