Legal woes are mounting for fugitive Enlightened Christian Gathering Church leader Shepherd Bushiri after a Pretoria-based property company became the latest entity to take him to court for a breached lease agreement at the premises where the controversial church is headquartered.
PPS Property Trust Fund brought an application to the Johannesburg High Court on October 10 to compel the pastor to honour two lease agreements it had concluded with Shepherd Bushiri Ministries. The fund is demanding R1.9 million from Bushiri, who skipped the country almost a year ago.
The papers showed that the first lease agreement was entered into on August 7 2018 and expired on June 30 2019. It was then extended to June 2022.
The entity’s trustees – cited as Victor Schroeder, Nicholas Battersby and Izak Smit – attested in their documents that Bushiri, who was cited as the sole representative of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri Ministries, had failed to pay a monthly amount of R27 255 for the main building and a further R54 510 for the duration of the first lease agreement, with the outstanding balance standing at R995 707, including interest.
The amounts had been “escalating at the rate of 10% per annum, compounded yearly on every anniversary of the commencement date, [plus] rental in terms of five open parking bays in the amount of R2 000 escalating at the rate of 10% per annum, compounded yearly”.
The company is further claiming about R1.1 million in damages for the early cancellation of the lease agreement due to nonpayment.
“The lessor [has] continued to tender to the defendant [Prophet Shepherd Bushiri Ministries] beneficial occupation in respect of the commercial leased premises,” stated the papers.
The application also showed that attempts to notify Bushiri about the legal action were unsuccessful, as none of the modes of communication he used when the deal was concluded was operational.
“If the tenant fails to make payment in terms of this lease agreement on the due date and fails to remedy such a breach within seven days after the receipt of written notice demanding payment, then the landlord may, without prejudice to any other rights and remedies it may have, cancel this lease agreement by written notice and may retake possession and occupation of the leased premises,” the papers read.
They added that the situation had put a strain on the company’s finances, leaving it with no choice but to approach the court.
“The defendant has ceased operation, trade and payment compliance, and has abandoned the commercial leased premises. As such, it has repudiated its obligations in terms of the agreement,” the papers read.
The application stated that the relief sought was fair and reasonable, so that the company could recover from the early termination of the agreements and the unpaid instalments.
City Press reported in August that software developer Anele Beke was demanding more than R80 million in an application before the same court after Bushiri fled South Africa without paying him for creating the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church’s TV station.
Beke essentially brought an ex parte application, seeking the matter to be heard without the presence of the defending party.
Bushiri and his wife Mary fled the country when they were granted bail after charges relating to fraud and money-laundering were laid against them.
Efforts to obtain comment from the church were unsuccessful.