Some South Africans have launched deep and widespread attacks against Prophet Shepherd Bushiri arguing ‘we are going to continue protesting until his church is removed from our Pretoria’.
On Friday, protesters invaded Pretoria Showgrounds—where Prophet Bushiri’s Enlighten Christian Gathering (ECG) holds its services—to stop people from praying there.
The irony part is that currently, ECG, is not holding services as it is on recess until 20 January 2019.
The protesters started burning tyres while spewing hatred and xenophobic insults against Prophet Bushiri for being a foreign pastor plying his trade in South Africa. Other protesters were heard shouting makwerekere and beating up suspected faces of ECG’s followers.
One of the protesters was heard shouting: “We want to question Bushiri. Some among us want him to vacate Pretoria. We are going to continue protesting until his church is removed from our showgrounds.
“We are aware that the church service was expected to begin today (Friday) and we are disrupting it. This is our message to him,” he said.
One of South Africa’s tabloids, the Daily Sun, said the residents had gathered to burn the ECG church, reminiscent of xenophobic attacks in South Africa where houses believed to be owned by foreigners were set ablaze, only that the police were dispatched to the scene before the protesters could cause more damage to the church premises.
The protesters said they ignored both the mayor [Solly Msimanga] and representative of the ECG who had assured to dress their concerns in civility following the stampede that killed three women last week Friday.
“We will be here, burning more tyres. They will not be using this venue anymore,” one of the resident, identified as Kabelo Tladinyane, has been quoted by the tabloid.
The South African police believe that members of the congregation may have pushed each other as they panicked over a thunderstorm, leading to the stampede.
ECG, through its attorney Terence Baloyi, said the stampede which occurred on the 28th of December 2018, started when unexpected thunderstorm hit Pretoria and caught off-guard the people who assembled at the Tshwane Events Centre show grounds.
With the looming storm, both the police and the church explained last week, people started pushing each other as they rushed to seek shelter in the church against the storm.
However, the explanations have yielded nothing as the unruly protesters were set on causing unrest, saying they “want him to vacate Pretoria” and that they will “continue protesting until his church is removed from our showgrounds”.
It is therefore not clear what other answers and explanation the protesters continue to demand of the unfortunate incident besides what the church and the police have already been explaining that has widely been quoted by the media in South Africa save for instigating xenophobia and spewing hatred against foreigners.
With the raging inferno ravaging the roads from the burning tyres, WF Nkomo [formerly Church] Street in Pretoria West was last night closed to traffic.
Commenting on the issue, Prophet Bushiri’s spokesperson Ephraen Nyondo said: “What happened at ECG on Friday was an unfortunate incident that none had control upon.”
“The church is working with the police to ensure that everything is addressed. So far we have never had any issue with the police and we are doing just fine.
“We will remain steadfast in working with the police and relevant officers so that all matters are addressed,” he told the press, indicating that ECG is currently not holding services as it is on recess until January 20.
The militant nature of the protesters who descended on the venue baying for the blood of any ECG follower including Prophet Bushiri forced several church members to flee the scene for their lives.
Some of the congregants who had flown to South Africa said they feared they would be attacked for being foreign.
“Spews of xenophobic attacks against Prophet Bushiri are uncalled for because ECG is not operating illegally in South Africa.” added Nyondo.
“However, we understand that this is not coming from well-meaninh South Africans. We understand that there are some church leaders who still feel Prophet Bushiri’s church stole people from their churches and that their ministries are failing because of Prophet Bushiri. We know they are using this incident to spew their anger on Prophet Bushiri,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Bushiri and the ECG church say they will continue to support victims of the stampede some of whom have accused the protesters of being insensitive to them and those who lost their lives in the stampede.
*Additional reporting by Sibu M. Mokoena