TSHWANE – The Tshwane SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) on Wednesday said plans were afoot to engage the Enlightened Christian Gathering church (ECG), led by self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri, in Pretoria.
The meeting would centre on the impasse between the organisations following a December 28 stampede at Bushiri’s mega church, in which three people died.
“We also took note of the threats [by ECG members] to boycott the elections, and we will, as agreed during the CRL Commission, meet with the leadership of the church to find lasting solutions that will ensure that such an unfortunate incident never happens again. Measures should be put in place for an alternative place for the church and its activities,” said Sanco Greater Tshwane chairperson Abram Mashishi.
“We are confident that when the matter [of the stampede] is brought before the courts it will give the church and the law-abiding citizens in this country an opportunity to know what is true. While we are not Theologians, [Sanco] believes that the church advocates for truth, justice and the respect of authority as the holy scriptures dictate that respecting authority is actually doing the will of God. They will have an appreciation of our concerns and work with all stakeholders in resolving these concerns.”
Three women were killed during the December stampede. Nine other congregants were injured as they ran for shelter during a heavy rainstorm. The dead women were identified as Patricia Pringane, Matshila Sarah Mohlala and Lehlogahlo Maria Segodi.
Sanco led protests outside the ECG premises in Pretoria, calling for the popular church to be expelled from the venue.
The South African watchdog on matters of religion, the CRL Rights Commission, quickly stepped in, initiating a mediation process in which Bushiri, City of Tshwane former mayor Solly Msimanga, and Sanco’s Mashishi were called to testify.
The report on the mediation process, publicly released last Friday morning, cleared Bushiri and the ECG of wrongdoing.
“Part of our findings is that SAPS (South African Police Service) did not adhere to the (Safety at Sports and Recreation Events) Act, which then makes it a very difficult situation. In terms of what happened to the bodies [of the three stampede victims], who moved the bodies [from the premises], we are all waiting for the police to tell us who did what and who did not do what. They are the experts in this matter, but the church has given us their version. We are waiting for the police’s version,” chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told reporters in Johannesburg on Friday.
On that day however, it later emerged that Bushiri and his wife Mary had been arrested on unrelated crimes including fraud and money laundering by the elite Hawks unit of the SAPS at their plush Sparkling Waters Resort in Rustenburg, North West.
On Wednesday, the couple was released on R100 000 bail each by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
Crowds of ECG members had been protesting at the court, threatening to boycott the upcoming national elections if law enforcement agencies continued "harassing" their leader.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Incredible Happenings Church, Prophet Paseka “Mboro” Motsoeneng, said he was spearheading mediation between ECG and Sanco.
“Prophet Mboro has started work to mediate between Prophet Bushiri and the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco),” the Incredible Happenings Church said in a statement issued on Wednesday evening.
African News Agency (ANA)