– Prophet Shepherd Bushiri not present at the premise when the stampede occured.
– Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG) not owned by Bushiri
As the deadly stampede which claimed three lives continue to hover over Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG), Prophet Shepherd Bushiri continue to come under attack and scrutiny.
In a briefing held on Friday, the ECG sent a strong message that the controversial pastor is not to blame for the tragedy.
Three lives were claimed when an apparent stampede broke out on 28 December.
The church’s spokesperson Maynard Manyowa says ECG is a South African church, directed by South Africans, and that Bushiri is just a leader in the church.
He says Shepherd Bushiri was not present at the premise when the tragedy happened
“The prophet is merely a leader. There are different people in different sectors of our church who lead different things. I am not certain what exactly he is meant to take responsibility for.
“The ECG Church is not his church, it belongs to South Africa and South Africans. The directors of the ECG are South Africans, our resident pastors are South Africans.
“There’s been a misleading tendency to insinuate that the prophet was involved. The prophet has no desire to cover his tracks, because there aren’t any tracks to be covered,” says Manyowa.
The lifeless bodies of 69-year-old Matshila Sarah Mohlala, 60-year-old Lehlagola Maria Segodi and 59-year-old Nondumiso Patricia Pringane were removed from the scene before the police were called to the church.
However, Manyowa denies that the church was responsible for removing the three bodies.
“We had emergency services personnel and paramedics who were at the scene. No church vehicle was used to transport bodies from the scene where they were injured, or places where they were certified dead,” he explains.
The church has been charged with defeating the ends of justice as the incident was not reported immediately. Family members were distraught that the bodies were removed to a private mortuary and they were not informed, only finding out later that their loved ones had died.
The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), and community members protested outside the church premises on Friday and called for Bushiri to pack up from “our” Pretoria, and for people to stop praying there.
They blamed him for the death of the women and for “hiding” the fact that they had died from family and the authorities. They burnt tires to block off the entrance to the premises.
Calm was restored outside the church premises the following Sunday, but no services were held. Sunday services usually attract large crowds.