Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga deliberately lied in the aftermath of the Pretoria church stampede when he said the premises of the Shepherd Bushiri-led Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church was noncompliant with fire and emergency by-laws, the African National Congress’ Youth League (ANCYL) in Tshwane said on Monday.
“We wish to remind Mr Msimanga, as we have done numerous times before, that indeed lies have short legs. Mr Msimanga lied to the people of Tshwane and South Africa in a press statement that the building used by the ECG church is noncompliant with regulations.
We have proof in the form of a [compliance] certificate that was handed over to the church by City of Tshwane officials,” said ANCYL Tshwane regional chairperson Lesego Makhubela.
“The certificate gave the church permission to host an event on the 31st of December. The ANC Youth League is disgusted by these lies and views this as opportunistic, senseless and insensitive to the families that lost their loved ones during a stampede at that church in December.”
The South African Police Service (SAPS) is investigating circumstances around the death of three female congregants at the ECG in a December 28 reported stampede.
A case of defeating the ends of justice has been opened, relating to the removal of the bodies from the church premises.
Makhubela said Msimanga should take the blame for the lack of police officers at the venue where thousands of people gathered on several days every week.
“We are further convinced that Mr Msimanga used these lies to shield a relative whom he has employed as the chief of the Tshwane Metro Police [Johanna Nkomo].
The relative who shares the same surname as Mr Msimanga’s mother is not even qualified to be a chief of the Tshwane Metro Police. She was bulldozed into this position because of nepotism,” said Makhubela.
He said the ANCYL was against calls for the ECG to be removed from the Pretoria showgrounds, which it rents for worship.
“We believe in the Constitution. What the DA is doing in Tshwane is similar what that corrupt funnyman [Johannesburg Mayor] Herman Mashaba is doing … promoting xenophobia. The ECG is a church of a black person, followed by multitudes of black people. These talks that he [Bushiri] should go back to Malawi are xenophobic and we are against it.
That church has a compliance certificate from Tshwane and nothing prohibits ECG from continuing with their gatherings,” Makhubela said.
“There is nothing in [the] law stopping the ECG from continuity with its services. Our stance is that we respect legislation. There is freedom of association, religion and opinion. We’re not going to try and be populist and attack churches of black people. That is backwardness. It promotes anarchy, black-on-black violence. Such irresponsible utterances have cost lives in this country.”
A coalition of parties led by Msimanga’s Democratic Alliance has run the city of Tshwane after wresting control from the ANC, the ruling party nationally, at the 2016 municipal elections.
On Saturday, the ECG countered Msimanga’s assertions, arguing that its premises were compliant with city fire and safety regulations and that there was proof of this.
The compliance certificates have been shared on social media and in news publications — including one issued by Tshwane to ECG two days after the stampede.