The Pretoria High Court has suspended the department of home affairs permanent residence notice against Enlightened Christian Gathering leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, until they have pleaded in their criminal trial.
According to a ruling delivered by Judge Brenda Neukircher on Tuesday, the notice will have to wait until Bushiri and his wife have pleaded to charges of fraud and money laundering to the value of R102 million, and to contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
On Wednesday the couple appeared in the Pretoria Magistrates Court on charges related to fraud and money laundering.
"The respondent's notice, dated August 2 2020, is suspended until the applicant and his wife have pleaded to the charges under case number CC14/2020.
The gist of the evidence is that the applicant’s application for permanent residence was captured and granted by [department] officials in terms of an incorrect section of the act Court papers
"The applicant and his wife shall, once their plea to the charges has been noted in case number CC14/2020, be afforded a period of 30 days from the date of the plea within which to make any formal representations (if they so wish or are advised to do so) as envisaged in the notice date (August 2 2020)," say court papers, which further state that the content of the notice is based on the evidence of two department officials who said that Bushiri and his wife's permanent residence status was captured incorrectly.
"The gist of the evidence is that the applicant's application for permanent residence was captured and granted by [department] officials in terms of an incorrect section of the act, which occurred as a result of certain commissions or omissions on the applicant and his wife's part. All this seems to be tied up with the charges before the criminal court," the papers state.
The court said the application was brought on an urgent basis and an order was granted postponing the application to give the department an opportunity to reconsider and extend the notice period for 30 days from September 5 2020.
"This meant that the application was to be heard by October 5 2020. Unfortunately on that date the matter was struck off the roll for lack of urgency [despite the parties agreement that the matter was, in fact, urgent]. It was then set before me for hearing on October 20 2020."
Bushiri and his wife were first arrested on February 1 last year and were released on bail a few days later. They appeared in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court on February 4 last year on charges of fraud, forgery, money laundering, contravening item 25 of schedule 1 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 and contravening regulation 6(1) and 6(6) of the Exchange Control Regulations.
On February 6 last year, Bushiri and his wife were issued with a notice by an official of the department, calling them for an interview. That notice was subsequently withdrawn and another one was issued on August 2 2020.