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Saved From Lion’s Jaw

Saved From Lion’s Jaw: Shakahola Massacre

The mass suicide started in January. Salema says she followed instructions to begin fasting so that she could “get to heaven”.

Mackenzie had been telling his followers for some time that the world was coming to an end. Initially he offered the forest as a sanctuary from the approaching apocalypse. But in a grisly twist it became a last stand to get to heaven before the “End of Days”.

After seven days of fasting, Salema says she heard a voice from God telling her this wasn’t his will and that she still had work to do in the world, so she stopped.

People around her were dying though – at one point she attended a funeral of eight children. It was called going to “sleep”.

But they said: “If my children won’t die, I should stop attending other peoples’ funerals,” she tells me.

Survivors say children were supposed to be the first to go, according to a macabre order drawn up by Mackenzie. Then the unmarried, the women, the men, and last of all, church leaders.

“When the child cries or asks for food or water, we were told to take a cane and beat them so that they could go and eat in heaven,” Salema explains. “So I thought about it and I said I cannot go on with this situation, I can’t eat while my child is starving. I told myself, if I feel this bad when I fast, how about my child?”

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