On the mid-morning of September 27, 2014 at a house in Kyamuoso, Machakos County, five people stood around a wooden table. Four were men, one was a woman. On the table was a red jug, a cow horn wrapped in black polythene paper and a man's underwear wrapped in sisal.
On the other side of the table was what seemed to be the carcass of a snake with thin yellow and black stripes, a white polythene paper, another red container, and a piece of paper with some writings on it. The cow horn had three eggs in it, and one was broken.
The little gathering was led by Pastor David Ngavi, shepherded by one Adronicus Kyuvi, also a man of the cloth. According to the leader of the gathering, the items on the table were witchcraft paraphernalia that had been dug out of the compound.
The broken eggs signified the impending death of either Ben -- the man of the home -- or his wife Nzuve, or both of them. We are using just their first names here to protect their identities.
As Pastor Ngavi explained in a video seen by the Nation, a gang of witches had offered a sacrifice, and the death, or deaths, were to happen in 2015.
The piece of paper with writings, said Pastor Ngavi, detailed how the witches had got hold of Ben's tongue, and that it was the reason he had struggled with throat problems for long.
There are things that you cannot deduce from the video. One is the fact that Ben's placenta had decades before been buried somewhere in the compound -- the 'men of God' were ministering on his ancestral land. The second is that despite Ben's confession that he witnessed the paraphernalia being dug up, or that he had been delivered from witchcraft, he is a scientist. He has a PhD, and is a senior official at one of the government scientific research institutions.
According to his wife and mother of his children, Ben had recurring colds, and his doctors had told the couple he probably suffered from allergies.
The couple had sought prayers from their pastor, Mr Ngavi. Early that September, Pastor Ngavi introduced the couple to 'Apostle' Kyuvi, to "try and see if Ben will get better through prayers," according to his wife. At the time, Kyuvi and his team were hosting a crusade at Faith Overcomers Church in Ulu, Makueni County.
"We have a plot of land around that area, and my husband asked them to also consecrate the land. But they told him that they were only going to pray for him on the land where his placenta was buried," says Nzuve, explaining how they ended up at Ben's ancestral home.
And so a date was set, and a day before the meeting, Ben and Kyuvi travelled to the family home in the village. According to Nzuve, they arrived at night, and "the pastors said they would not pray at night, and that they would do it the next morning."
Cattle for a sacrifice
Then the pastors said something strange -- they required cattle for a sacrifice. Only one thing stood in their way -- Ben's father, who had witnessed the whole session and doubted the pastors. Immediately after the prayers, he called his daughter-in-law, and warned her to cut ties with Kyuvi. However, needing a solution for what ailed her husband -- who cried to his father asking for the animal -- Nzuve was convinced Kyuvi was the answer to their troubles.
"My father-in-law said it is unscriptural to give animals as sacrifice and stated that our cattle, which were under his care, would not be given out to such people. When my husband returned to Nairobi, he insisted that the only way I would be allowed into our house was to attend all the prayers and agree to the sale of the cattle. I was pregnant then, and since I didn't want to stress myself, I allowed him to go ahead," says Nzuve.
Seeing his son's tears softened her father-in-law a bit, she says. But after the cattle were driven out in exchange for money, he told the couple he never wanted to see them again.
'Caused by witchcraft'
More misery was to visit the family -- Nzuve lost her baby a short while later. Before she fully recovered, her husband invited Kyuvi to pray for her. His 'spiritual diagnosis' would be that the miscarriage had been caused by witchcraft, allegedly by a relative. Ben believed him.
One morning in September 2016, Nzuve woke up bleeding. Her second miscarriage was in progress. She called her husband to update him, then checked herself into hospital.
"The next day, my husband came in, and the doctors were in the process of cleaning me up to remove the dead foetus. He told the doctors not to touch me or the foetus. He forcibly checked me out of hospital, dropped me home and left," she says.
A few days later, the foetus came out when she was in the shower, and she started bleeding heavily.
"I was alone with my children, and my neighbours had to come and take me to hospital. The doctors ran tests, but found nothing. I went to another hospital. It was there that the doctor found out that I had fibroids," says Nzuve.
Fibroids are growths in the uterus that can cause a miscarriage in a pregnant woman.
Even with a doctor's report, says Nzuve, her husband did not believe that she had been pregnant.
"Instead of showing sympathy and support, he told me there had been no baby in my womb, and that it was all witchcraft, planted by my own mother and grandmother. He said the same thing when I suffered my third miscarriage. It was so hurtful and unbelievable," she says.
Together with her doctor, Nzuve finally planned for the fibroids to be removed in April 2017. Alone, she drove herself to hospital, and the next day, she was in the ward, recovering from surgery.
"There was no sign of my husband. My last-born brother had to travel to come and discharge me," she says.
"He was not an experienced driver yet, and I had to drive some distance to get the vehicle out of traffic before he could take over," she adds.
Chairs thrown out
Her husband kept bringing pastors to their home near Nairobi. One time, a pastor told him their chairs had witchcraft.
"My husband believed them, and threw out the chairs."
Her baby finally arrived in January 2020. However, the baby was born at 36 weeks, and not surprisingly, Ben attributed the preterm birth to witchcraft.
"More so, the late preterm birth has made the baby achieve her milestones slower than the standard timings. A paediatrician advised me to take the baby for occupational therapy. But it is expensive, and I am the only one paying for it because my husband says the baby's slow progress is also a consequence of witchcraft," she says.
According to Nemours KidsHealth, occupational therapy is a branch of health care that helps people of all ages who have physical, sensory, or cognitive problems. It helps children to develop fine motor skills, improve eye-hand coordination, master basic life skills such as bathing and learn positive behaviours and social skills by practising how they manage frustration and anger.
The mother of three explains that since her baby's medical insurance got exhausted, she has had to dip into her pockets. Ideally, the baby should have three sessions a week, and each session costs Sh3,000. That is Sh36,000 a month, and Sh432,000 a year. All this, without including the cost of travel to the clinic and medication.
Besides shouldering the burden of caring for their baby alone, domestic violence also became a part of her life.
"He would ask for money, and since I knew where he would take it to, I would refuse. Sometimes he would become arrogant and even physical, but I also have two teenagers to support. We eventually drifted apart," says Nzuve.
When her husband got involved in accidents in 2017 and 2019, he attributed them to witchcraft.
"I had travelled to Tanzania when the 2017 accident happened. When I got back, he beat me up, saying that I had gone to get witchcraft material in Tanzania," says Nzuve. "Now whenever he sees anything, even snails, he thinks it is witchcraft," she adds.
However, the proverbial 40th day eventually dawned for Kyuvi. He travelled to South Africa for a prayer retreat. And even though the retreat was his personal business, the couple paid for his travel expenses, including his visa and passport costs.
"Before he travelled, he left his luggage in my house. Out of curiosity, I ransacked the bag. To my shock and disbelief, I found the things they had purported to have dug up from mine and other people's homes," says Nzuve.
In the snare of conmen
The realisation that they were deep in the snare of conmen shocked her, but it was her husband's disbelief and attempts to defend them that left her even more shocked.
"When he (Kyuvi) finally came back, accompanied by a number of men, I picked up the bag myself and handed it to them. It was then that they realised that their game was up," says the mother of three.
Mr Ngavi, the couple's pastor who is featured in the video, now says Kyuvi is a con, brainwashing people with witchcraft claims. They first met in November 2014. Kyuvi, explains the pastor, was a preacher at the market. They then preached together at four events, before Kyuvi went back to preaching from market to market.
Pastor Ngavi explains that he got sceptical about Kyuvi since "he would frequently carry a mattock and a jembe (hoe). When he preached at the market, people would think that he is genuine and they would invite him to their homes. Once there, he would dig up witchcraft paraphernalia, and convince them that he was removing it," says Pastor Ngavi.
"I had never seen anything like that. I consulted other men of God and they said Kyuvi has a team. What they do is plant the paraphernalia, then organise a crusade and pretend that they have made the discoveries," he says.
Once he realised that Kyuvi was not genuine, Pastor Ngavi alerted the pastors who serve in other branches of his church. The faithful were warned about Kyuvi and advised to cut interactions with him. That was in December 2014.
The next course of action, says Pastor Ngavi, was to inform Ben.
"I called Ben and told him that Kyuvi is not a man of God. I described everything -- how I had prayed about it. Instead of listening to me, Ben went and told Kyuvi what I had told him. That is also how we came into conflict with Ben. I never saw Kyuvi again, so I don't know if they are still with Ben," he adds.
Arrested in Zambia
Unknown to many, Kyuvi had been arrested in Zambia while doing the same thing. According to a source who sought anonymity, Kyuvi had planted witchcraft material near a river. When he went to retrieve them, he was caught by Zambian authorities and locked up.
He was sentenced, but "was released in a week or so. He didn't stay long."
"People think that Kyuvi is using demonic powers to brainwash people, but really, he is thriving on people's foolishness," said the source.
It is not clear whether Kyuvi's arrest happened before or after his eviction from Around the Globe Church headed by Apostle Francis Musili.
The reason for his eviction could not be established, as Mr Musili was unreachable on phone and physically. However, a banner hanging near the church warns members to beware of fraudsters purporting to be representatives of Mr Musili or his church.
It reads: "there is evidence of people conned by such characters, who visit people's homes, pretending to remove fetishes/witchcraft from their homes. We don't visit people's homes for prayer, we encourage one to come personally to church. If you have fallen victim, report immediately."
Kyuvi says he fell out with his former boss because of leadership politics. He explains that his job is to pray and bring down altars of the devil.
"I deal with crusades and conferences. If a congregant suspects that their house is under witch attack, I visit the home with anointing oil. I mainly use olive oil, which you can get from the supermarket. I go around the house sprinkling the oil and declaring "I consecrate this house in the name of Jesus"."
He explains that when people call him, he only asks them to send him fare. He has preached in many churches, and travelled around the world - to Malindi, Machakos, Nairobi and Garissa in Kenya, and Australia, South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi, to preach, he says.
He claims to be affiliated to five churches in Zambia.
"I also have around eight affiliate churches in Tanzania. However, I do not go there on my own volition, I am mostly invited," he says.
Plethora of results
A search of the name Andronicus Kyuvi brings up a plethora of results. The most notable one explains that Evangelism Around The World Chapel church started on May 2006 "after a powerful and successful open air crusade by Apostle Kyuvi ... . Crusade... well attended... more than 200 people".
Another section goes: "I am Adronicus Mutiso Kyuvi, third born of late John Mutiso and Joyce Koki. I come from a family of seven children."
It goes ahead to say, "I attended primary school at Kitheini Primary and proceeded to Lordrings High School up to Form Three. I did not finish secondary school due to financial breakdown. I have planted two churches since 2006 and ten fellowships. I also take care of orphans and destitute children [and] already, 78 are in the centre."
Bishop Kitai Elisha, who runs Blood of Christ ministries, has a church in Roysambu. He says that he interacted with Kyuvi once, in 2019.
"I had invited him to minister in my church, but he has his own ministry. He usually goes to Zambia to preach, and I did not see him the whole of 2020," he said.
Ben's brother, also a pastor, said he warned his brother about Kyuvi and his fraudulent activities, but that his brother would not listen.
"When he refused to listen to me, we argued. We even fought. Eventually, I told him I had had enough and cut ties. I don't know if they are still together or not," he said.
Ben did not want to give his side of the story. When asked by this writer to speak about how his and Kyuvi's actions have affected the family, he replied, "which story, from who, and by who, and with whose consent?" several calls made after that went unanswered.
However, his father defended him, saying that his wife is only out to defame him.