The controversial Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church has suspended its services till further notice.
The announcement came after its leader‚ Prophet Shepherd Bushiri‚ said "it was not the right time to have a service" and invited pastors to join him in a mountain prayer and fasting service.
Spokesperson and attorney for the church Terrence Baloyi confirmed this to sister publication TimesLIVE on Monday.
At the weekend‚ congregants were surprised to receive a memo informing them that the Sunday church service had been postponed.
“The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church International would like to inform all its national offices‚ branch leaders‚ all stewards‚ church members‚ followers and visitors that our 2019 Open Doors Grand Entrance Service‚ which was scheduled for this Sunday‚ January 20 2019‚ is hereby postponed. A new date will be announced shortly.
"This message applies to all the branches – no services until announced.”
“All members and followers are advised to continue in prayer and fasting as previously announced by the Apostle Magawa and therefore (an) extension of an extra 7 days is hereby implemented [sic]‚” the church said in a statement.
The church is under police investigation following a stampede which claimed the lives of three women and left dozens injured. The stampede occurred on December 28 during a church service which was attended by dozens of congregants.
On Monday‚ the church said the halting of this past Sunday's service was not related to the stampede.
"I don't want to reveal spiritual things – but it has nothing to do with the stampede‚" said Baloyi.
According to initial police reports‚ the stampede was caused by heavy rains and thunder – which saw congregants running and pushing each other. The bodies of the deceased were removed from the scene and police were only alerted of the stampede a day after it occurred.
A case of defeating the ends of justice was opened relating to the removal of the bodies from the church before the police were notified.
Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhube confirmed that an investigation was under way and no arrests had been made.
Two weeks after the stampede‚ the City of Tshwane conducted an inspection at the church venue and found it to be non-compliant with safety issues.
It was unclear when the church services would resume but Bushiri would soon give some direction‚ Baloyi said.
“We will be meeting with the prophet sometime this week‚ he will then give further guidance in terms of how we will be proceeding.”
– Sunday World