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Bushiri's bail application postponed

by News agencies
04 Feb 2019 at 19:21hrs | Views
South Africa-based leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary who were arrested last Friday appeared in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court yesterday, before the case was postponed to tomorrow.

The couple was arrested by the Hawks in Rustenburg on charges of fraud and money laundering. The postponement was to allow the State to conclude investigations, according to NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane.

Bushiri (35), and Mary (37) will remain in custody as they stand accused of fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that the case against the couple was linked to alleged offences of fraud and money laundering, as well as the contravention of POCA, which had been committed from 2015.

The contravention of the Act was in relation to Exchange Control Regulations relating to foreign currency of $1 147 200 (around R15m).

In April last year, a tabloid publication the Sunday World, reported that Bushiri was apparently making so much money from his churches in SA that he was able to send R15m a month back to his home in Malawi.

Mulaudzi confirmed to the tabloid at the time that the Hawks had been investigating the prophet, but cautioned that the case was in its early stages and that he could not divulge or confirm any details. At that time, Bushiri told SABC News that he was not even aware that the police were investigating him and that he had only heard about the investigation through the media.

Meanwhile, Bushiri's supporters came out in their numbers to support him as he appeared in court.

A large group of Bushiri church congregants protested outside the court before the couple's appearance. Among the supporters was Incredible Happenings Church leader Prophet Paseka Motsoeneng, who said he was there to give spiritual and moral support to Bushiri and his wife.

"I am here to give moral and spiritual support as a brother in Christ. He is a prophet and he is running a church, and I am running a church, so I cannot rejoice when things are going like this," Motsoeneng said.

The ECG Church members were adamant that their leader was guilty of any criminal offence, and threatened not to vote in South Africa's upcoming elections due this year, if he is not released.

"He has changed my life in an amazing way. We are here with spiritual intentions. If he is not released, we will keep on praying that God will intervene. We are not moved by this petty arrest," Tefo said as quoted by Times Live.

Tefo said "Major 1" – as he is referred to by his followers – knew "long before" that he would be arrested. "All the prophets in the Bible received similar treatment. We are not moved by that, we are standing boldly and saying God is making a move". Should Bushiri not be released, his supporters would not take part in the upcoming 2019 general elections, she added.

According to Times Live, hundreds of supporters carried placards that read: "Major 1, innocent." Others held framed photos of Bushiri. Supporters chanted: "We want our father. You touch a prophet, you will see."

A lady who was barred from entering court proceedings, said: "You are provoking God himself, do you know that?" A second follower, Dimpho Lekunutu, also believed that Bushiri had done "nothing wrong".

"I want my father to be released. This is the day the Lord has made and we will rejoice. We are not surprised by this; my father Major One is the one who taught me to do things the right way in life."

In a related development lobbyist group Black First Land First (BLF) came out in full support of the couple, claiming that Bushiri was being "demonised" because he is a "successful black man."

"As Black First Land First (BLF), we stand with the major one (Shepherd Bushiri). This is a systematic attack on the church and the prophet," BLF leader Andile Mngxitama said, outside the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

Addressing hundreds of Bushiri's congregants, who sang and demonstrated outside the court, Mngxitama said the BLF was the only political movement that had come to show support to the self-proclaimed prophet and his wife.

Mngxitama said political parties and their leaders had turned their backs on the prophet now that he was "in trouble", even though they were the very same people who would seek blessings from Bushiri.

"We are the only ones who have come out, because we are on the side of the truth. We know that the major one is being prosecuted by this government because he is a black man who is successful out of his own effort and his blessings from his God," Mngxitama said.

He added that the church was under attack because black people were leaving "white established churches, because there was no spirituality" in those churches.

Mngxitama alleged that the government was being used to bring down Bushiri's name and the churches' name.

"Now these white churches, using our government, are trying to destroy these independent black churches. We say to our government that it must stop doing this, it must allow black people to thrive," Mngxitama said.

Mngxitama said the reason why the case had been postponed was to "harass and demonise" Bushiri.

Meanwhile, the president of the South African Union Council of Independent Churches Bishop Modiri Patrick Shole, said they would allow the law to take its course. Shole said although Bushiri was not part of the council, they were there to offer support as he was part and parcel of the body of Christ.

"We are saying, let the court take its course. We don't know who is right, who is not wrong. All what we are saying is, let the law take its course. Our stand is that we will pray and we will come, listen and hear what is said," he said.

Source - News agencies

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