SOUTH Africans were treated to a ‘never-seen before’ scene when staunch churchgoers of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church put out all the stops to support Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Prophetess Mary.
This follows charges of fraud and money laundering waged against the powerful couple. Holy oil and water, specially blessed by the Malawian-born prophet, were sprinkled, and there were echoes of incredibly faithful supporters praying in tongues while tears rolled down their faces proclaiming their deliverer’s innocence. ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!’ some shouted at a Hawks vehicle parked outside court where churchgoers waited with baited breath for an outcome that would free their ‘Papa’.
The prophet’s life has always been marred by controversy. He has been called all sorts of ungodly names that are in direct conflict with what a man of God should be hailed as. ‘Crook’ and ‘fake’ are some of the names used when he is called out of his preferred name, ‘Prophet’.
Social media was abuzz amid the power couple’s arrest. Those who fear his power and anointing found it hard to believe that a man of his calibre was behind bars.How is it possible for an anointed man of God, who is blessed to see into the future, heal and change lives be facing the possibility of jail-time? An official declaration by the Hawks confirmed that the case against the pair concerns alleged fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. The crimes were committed since 2015 in relation to Exchange Control Regulations related to foreign currency to the value of US$1,147,200 (about R15.3-million).
Loyalists of ‘Papa’ dared not leave his side and that of his wife at a time he and his family needed them the most. The esteemed Advocate Barry Roux, whose name gained popularity when he was defending convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius in 2014, was called on as legal counsel, a move that matches Prophet Bushiri’s palate for only the ‘finer’ things in life.
During the court proceeding, where the Bushiris were waiting to be granted bail, his followers continued to pray for his release. The prophet and his wife were granted bail of R100 000 each.
NO BUSHIRI, NO VOTE
While some may call them extremists or members of a cult, the prophet’s faithful congregants proved their undying love for their leader when they threatened not to vote in the upcoming general elections as they demanded that the couple be released. “No Major, no votes!” the group chanted outside court. But the tune soon changed after the couple’s release. The crowd erupted in song, celebrating their freedom. Although he was getting the support, many other people shared on social media platforms their testimonies of how they have sent monies to the prophet in hopes of getting a job and healing to no avail. There has indeed been conflicting views and emotions regarding The Major 1 among South Africans.
After five nights behind bars, Prophet Bushiri and his wife had their bail hearing where their affidavits were read out at the Specialised Crimes Court in Pretoria. The couple’s legal representative, Advocate Johan Hattingh, read from the affidavit.
In it, Prophet Bushiri said his family is renting property in Midrand. The couple is originally from Malawi but are permanent residents in Mzansi and denied having any involvement in money laundering, organised crime and fraud. In Mary’s affidavit, she also denied all the charges against her and added that their two children attend school in Malawi and visit their parents over school holidays.
Prosecutor Salome Veenemans told the court that the State did not oppose bail and confirmed that all of the information in the affidavits was certified. The couple can’t leave Gauteng and must inform the investigating officer if they want to leave the province. They also handed in their passports and are not allowed to have any direct or indirect contact with employees of the Asset Forfeiture Unit or anyone from the National Prosecuting Authority office.
The couple is expected back in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on May 10. Social media was abuzz amid the couple’s arrest
IT NEVER RAINS IT POURS
Immediately putting his supporters at ease, after his release, he held a briefing broadcast on his own channel, Prophetic Channel, expressing gratitude for the overwhelming support. The prophet, spoke in a soft voice, different from the charismatic upbeat tone when performing miracles in church.
“It has been a difficult five weeks for us. We have been under orchestrated attacks,” he says in the video. When the official arrest was made, he had just appeared before the CRL Rights Commission following an incident in December 2018 where three women died during a stampede at his church.
“In these five weeks we were under orchestrated attacks starting with people burning tyres to demands that I leave the country of which I am a permanent resident, to demands that ECG Pretoria branch be closed, my wife being poisoned, all the way to our incarceration,” he said in the video. He continued to show his deepest gratitude to his supporters. “Your prayers have strengthened me and my wife. God has really been so faithful in these past five weeks.”
Bushiri didn’t not get a chance to rejoice following the CRL Rights Commission judgement that exonerated him. Hours later, he had another fire to put out as he faced this high-profile arrest.
WHAT THE PROPHET TOLD HIS SUPPORTERS
“My wife and I are extremely happy to talk to you right now. I know you missed me and I also missed you. That is why I thought of taking a moment to talk to you just for few minutes. The entire purpose of this address is to thank everybody who stood in solidarity with me and my wife in the past five weeks that we experienced situations after situations.
Your prayers strengthened us and we also prayed for you so that God grants you continued energy to keep praying for us. We thank you very much. However, I will be failing in my address if I don’t specifically mention the following individuals and institutions. The Office of the President of South Africa who always made sure that, through the CRL Commission, all the issues surrounding the stampede are addressed within the dictates of the law. We are happy that, through the mediation of the CRL Commission, our religious rights were protected. The Office of the President of Malawi and the High Commissioner’s office here in South Africa who did a great job of checking up on us regularly. There were many political parties here in South Africa which stood with us.
I should also mention the enormous support we got from the media and for always informing people fairly and accurately about our situation. I would be failing in my address if I don’t recognise, in a special way, the encouragement and prayers I got from my spiritual father, Prophet Uebert Angel, Prophet Beverly and the entire Good News team.
To all ECG leaders, my communications team, my legal team, my family and every member and follower out there, we say: Thank you very much. And lastly, I would like to thank my wife for standing with me and our two beautiful daughters and for always praying for us. It is my prayer that God should touch every part of your life and I have belief in my God.”