Civil rights movement #NotInMyName on Sunday criticised popular self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri, leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church, accusing him of abusing several women within his vast church.
“As South Africa’s most vibrant, recognisable civil rights movement, #NotInMyName has been approached by women – former and current congregants – of the Enlightened Christian Gathering who, in strict confidence, narrate their ordeals at the hands of the so-called man of God and his many lieutenants,” secretary general Themba Masango said in Pretoria.
South Africa was "overwhelmed by sex pests and sex-for-jobs perpetrators" within religious and other organisations, and "#NotInMyName hereby sends a stern warning… we are coming for him”.
Masango warned that recent protests seen outside the ECG church following the December 28 death of three congregants in an apparent stampede “will look like a Sunday kindergarten outing if Bushiri does not come clean and reform”.
“Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo! [you strike a woman, you strike a rock]. No amount of expensive designer suits, jewelry, hundreds of bodyguards, expensive Range Rovers, private jets, overzealous yet floundering lawyers, the tired gospel of prosperity or cultism will be able to shield Shepherd Bushiri when #NotInMyName and patriotic South Africans rise to #Shutdown that ECG church,” said Masango.
Bushiri's lawyer Terrance Baloyi said on Sunday he would respond to the African News Agency's (ANA) queries regarding the allegations.
The ECG church, headed by the charismatic Bushiri, draws thousands of people to its services on several days each week. The South African Police Service (SAPS) is investigating a case of defeating the ends of justice against the church following the death of three congregants in a reported stampede and at least 17 injured in December.
In the aftermath, the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) led protests at the ECG, with community members calling for the church to be expelled from the Pretoria Events Center forthwith, and for Bushiri to be deported home to Malawi.
On Sunday, #NotInMyName urged women across South Africa who felt that they had been abused by religious leaders to speak out through different platforms.
“There is help out there and #NotInMyName will fight for your justice – even if it’s not fashionable to do so,” said Masango.
“#NotInMyName is also fully briefed by poor South Africans who allege that they have lost significant amounts of money in financial schemes that are run within the ECG establishment. In due course our people will rise to recover what they have lost.”
Bushiri, 35, and his wife Mary, 37, are on R100,000 bail each after they were arrested by the SAPS Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks, on serious fraud and money laundering charges. The Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court postponed that matter to May 10.