Fredriko Brandson Jalazi, popularly known as Mbale Mbuu was the founding father of Seventh Day Apostolic Church (Seventh Day Apostole) in Malawi, an independent church that sprang up in Blantye city.
He was born in 1952 in Katsinje village in the area of chief Kamwetsa in Ntcheu district. The firstborn of four children, he had one brother and two sisters. Probably orphaned or a victim of divorce, he grew up with his mother and attended a local school which he could not continue because he could not pay school fees. He therefore left school as early as standard two. As a young boy under his parents he gathered for worship at the Seventh Day Thamanda, a schismatic group that had come out of the Seventh Day Adventists. He married in his home area and later divorced after fathering one child, a son.
In 1971 he went to Blantyre in search of a job and stayed with his uncle. It is said that he was one of those who worked at the building of the Sanjika Palace, probably as a mortar boy. Later he started his own business as a small dried fish seller. It is from this trade that he earned his nick name Mbale Mbuu meaning plateful (of fish), a cliche he used to attract customers. In 1979 Fredriko went to a place in Tcheu district to see a traditional doctor who could aid him boost his business. The traditional doctor gave him all the necessary charms and told him that if he followed the instructions well he would be rich in ninety days. To his surprise just within twenty one days he had more money than he could imagine. It is said that he had K15000 with more fish to be sold.
Meanwhile he had completely stopped attending church. Just about that time he claimed to have seen a vision of Christ who rebuked him for his neglect of the truth and commanded him to stop doing whatever he had been doing with charms. This experience left him confounded for several days. Then the spirit directed him to begin attending a church called Jewish Seventh Day Apostolic Church (apostoli achiyuda) in Chilomoni township in Blantyre. There they practiced literal Jewish Christianity and Jalazi learned a lot from them but he could not bear the extreme legalism that accompanied their Christian practices. He began to oppose such Jewish rites as sprinkling by the elder before worship.
Eventually he left to start his own church in 1984 called the “Seventh Day Apostole.” (They refuse to be called “Apostolic.”) By this time, after he was baptized, he had changed his name to Lot, a biblical name. He became an itinerant preacher, preaching controversial sermons in socratic style every day with his followers at the Ndirande township market square.
His group followed a strict Jewish lifestyle which included the use of a Jewish calendar and a watch. As a man of God he delved very often into the Word of God though he was barely literate and, as a result, he had an astounding knowledge of the Scriptures and could easily answer any biblical questions in arguments about the faith. Called the “Scripture Wizard,” he had talent, wisdom, intelligence and spiritual wit. Because of his fearless and sometimes provocative teachings, he was on several ocassions arrested by the authorities under the late Dr. Banda’s regime. This earned him a name among the people as a man who did not even fear the Lion of Malawi.
In 1995 “Lot Mbale Mbuu,” as he was dubbed, represented the Christian community in a hot debate with Muslims on the theme “Which of the two, Christianity or Islam, is a true religion?” The debate was held on the Nyambadwe School Grounds near Ndirande township. The Islamic faith was represented by “learned sheiks.” It is said that the debate was very emotional and that he answered all the questions of the other side but they could not answer his subtle and learned questions. The debate was disrupted by people who jeered at the Muslims in their confusion and declared Lot the winner. Korans and Muslim skull-caps were grabbed, torn and burnt. From then on he was known as the “Christian Lawyer.” His staunch opposition to Islam was also evidenced in his establishment of “Christian butcheries” to rival the Halaal butcheries. He urged Christians to eat meat slaughtered by their Christian friends rather than to give the Mwalim’s a living, a very common practice in Malawi.
His church spread to many parts of the country notably Mulanje, Ntcheu and Chikwawa districts with Blantyre as his headquarters. While his ministry was mainly confined to Blantyre his influence went far beyond. His open air preaching, radio sermons and debates revived many hearts who did not join his church but were enlightened on many Christian issues.
In an attempt to return to the roots of the church, he organized his church members into a community similar to the early church in the book of Acts where “no one owned anything for themselves.” Almost everyone in this community worked in some sort of business and they would pool all their earnings to support the community. This worked extremely well at his headquarters in Ndirande township where he built a large house that could house several families.
Between 1999 and 2000, Jalazi went through what could be called the “Daniel denial:” he stopped drinking treated water and eating any fertilized mealie meal to avoid the defilement of the world, getting instead his water from the natural springs up Ndirande mountain and using the flour from naturally grown maize. In addition he did not take any medications, a rule which applied to everyone in his church. But by the end of the year 2000 he went back on his decision, stating that the Lord had told him it was never harmful to use these artificial products if one prays for them first.
Fredriko Brandson Lot Jalazi died in May 2002 after a short illness, suffering from splitting headaches which caused loss of memory and speech. At the time of his death he was preparing for a press briefing on politics, Christianity and Islam in Malawi. The church he started is still thriving, now under the leadership of Paul Masamba, a man who had been under him for a long time.
Louis W. Ndekha
Weekend Nation, Religion Section, May 18-19, 2002, article by Bright Kumwenda([email protected]).
Interview with Paul Masamba, present leader of the Seventh Day Apostolic Church who was nurtured by the late Mbale Mbuu.
Interview with W. G. Kang’ona, uncle of Jalazi.
Interview with Mr. Charles Kangona, cousin of the late Jalazi.
Interview with Mr. Salawira, cousin of the late Jalazi.
Interview with a former colleague of Jalazi at the Jewish Apostolic Church in Chilomoni.
This article, submitted in 2003, was written and researched by Louis W. Ndekha, DACB Liaison Coordinator, under the supervision of R. G. Munyenyembe, lecturer at the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi, a DACB Participating Institution.