OVER the last nine years, the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECGC) leader Shepherd Bushiri has had a phenomenal rise from a virtually unknown figure to a household name in Africa and beyond.
At just 35 years of age, his rise to fame has been as dramatic as it is also controversial. His fame borders around his claim of possessing Jesus Christ’s supernatural powers to deliver, heal and prophesy.
He is one of the big names to rise at the turn of the millennium under a wave of a prophetic movement. Whether it’s a genuine prophetic generation or the age of false prophets is a debate for another day. But having started in Mzuzu, Malawi in 2010, where his church is head-quartered before moving to Pretoria, South Africa, Prophet Bushiri has managed to grow his denomination across 178 countries.
Last year, Prophet Bushiri went on a whirlwind tour of the world to win souls for Christ, claiming over 2 million converts. Major 1, as he is affectionately known, also has interests in Zimbabwe. He held a two-day church conference last month in Harare.
Popular Twitter parody account Man’s Not Barry Roux (@AdvBarryRoux) divided its followers on Wednesday last week revealing what most Malawians may have already known – Shepherd Bushiri’s apparent real name.
The parody account said an invoice mistakenly sent to Baloyi Attorneys did not use the popular name, and instead called him Chipiliro Gama.
The preacher is mentored by his “spiritual father”, Prophet Uebert Angel of the Good News Church – a Zimbabwean now based in the United Kingdom. He even prophesied that Zimbabwe will grow economically in the next six years to be the size of the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.
The preacher commands a huge following in Pretoria and Malawi where over 100 000 congregants gather every week. He is also popular on social media with close to 4 million followers on Facebook. Millions across the world also watch his church services on his Prophetic Channel television station.
Apart from leading a big church, he is also a businessman through SB Investments head-quartered in Sandton, South Africa, with vast interests in real estate, mining, aviation, transportation and tourism industry. He is one of the few businessmen across Africa or in the world who boast of owning luxury Gulf Stream private jets.
Prophet Bushiri also stirred debate in religious circles when he bought a R1 million Maserrati for his six-year old daughter. Such is a success story of a young man who grew up in poverty in Mzuzu in northern Malawi.
But 2019 has turned out to be a trying year for Prophet Bushiri. Many are asking questions if the preacher is being persecuted or he is being exposed. This follows his arrest in Rustenburg last week before being released on a R100 000 bail for alleged fraud and money laundering after siphoning R15 million from South Africa to Malawi.
His 'sugar mama' wife – Prophetess Mary, who is two years older than her 'Ben 10' hubby – Prophet Bushiri, is also facing the same charges. The couple, which claims to possess supernatural powers to predict the future, has two children Israella and Raphael.
In a Facebook post, Prophet Bushiri pulled a shocker when he said even his wife was poisoned to near death. So much has happened since December 2018, when three people died in a stampede during a church service in Pretoria. People dying, wife poisoned to near death, protests that he leaves South Africa and arrests over fraud – all this in just over a month – certainly signifies something.
Could it be the beginning of the end for Prophet Bushiri or is it the devil fighting him? On Thursday morning, the ECG founder acknowledged that all is not well.
He said, “The entire purpose of this address is to thank everybody who stood in solidarity with me and my wife in the past 5 weeks that we experienced situations after situations, starting with organised protests, to demands that I leave the country for which I am a permanent resident, to demands that the Pretoria branch be closed, my wife being poisoned to within an inch of her life, all the way to our incarceration.”
Prophet Bushiri also paid tribute to all those who stood by him during the arrest. However, Christian author and former publicist for Prophet Angel, Dr Brilliant Pongo opined that Prophet Bushiri’s arrest was proper prosecution rather than persecution.
Hundreds of the prophet’s followers protested against the HAWKS (South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) which targets organised crime, economic crime, corruption, and other serious crime). The protestors sprinkled anointed oils at vehicles claiming that the ‘man of God’ was being persecuted.
But Dr Pongo who worked closely with Prophet Bushiri’s spiritual father had no kind words.
“Today’s church has been polluted by charlatans and many think that when these characters are prosecuted for crimes, it’s tantamount to persecution. There is a world of difference between criminally prosecuting a prophet for fraud and the persecution that biblical prophets.
“Early in the book of Acts, Peter and John were thrown in jail and beaten for preaching Jesus. It was not for money laundering or fraud. When they departed, the people in the council marvelled that they were uneducated fishermen, “. . . and they realised that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Under persecution they reacted in such a way that the people of the world said, “They are like the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Remember, as Stephen was being stoned to death, who was looking on? Saul – later to become Paul, the mightiest Christian missionary theologian the world has ever known – observed Stephen as he was persecuted to death. Saul was changed.
“What changed him? The way Stephen died. They could not intimidate Stephen, so they stoned him to death. Can you imagine what it would be like to be stoned to death? Now, that’s persecution. So please let’s not confuse ourselves and others by crying our prophet is being persecuted when in actuality he is being prosecuted for criminality.”
As time rolls, it will surely come to light whether Prophet Bushiri is being prosecuted or persecuted. None the less, it looks like God is punishing Bushiri as many people across the African continent, including his own country of origin, Malawi, claim the preacher not a true prophet of God.