Beware the Ides of May! This befits a warning a soothsayer or another prophet could give Prophet Shepherd Bushiri whose fraud and money laundering trial begins on 10 May this year.
However, the Malawian born seer says the period of his misfortunes, which begun on 28 December 2018, will continue to maul his ministry for the next two months and that from May onward, a new dawn of hope will begin.
Major One, as he is affectionately called, has since blamed the devil who he says is using the media and natural disasters against the Enlighten Christian Gathering (ECG) leader who entered 2019 on bumpy ride.
“The devil will use the media to attack us, he will use natural disasters to attack us, we will be in media for these coming weeks being attacked”, Bushiri, as quoted by the official ECG news outlet, told his congregants.
For the Malawian born prophet, 2019 has been a turbulent year.
A fatal stampede at Bushiri’s ECG on December 28, just three days before the overnight crossover event killed 3 women and injured several other congregants marked the genesis of a highly problematic period.
The stampede ignited a wave of protests from members of the public led by South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) demanding South African authorities to shutdown Bushiri’s church. Sanco also asked authorities to deport the controversial televangelist back to Malawi where he hails from.
Following the incident, the South African Police Service opened a case of defeating the ends of justice against ECG.
“The case of defeating the ends of justice is opened at the Pretoria West SAPS following the stampede which happened on the 28th of December, at Bushiri’s church, Enlightened Christian Church Gathering (ECG),” Pretoria police spokeswoman Captain Augustinah Selepe told African News Agency (ANA).
“The charge is laid, based on the fact that police have established that the victims were certified dead at the church premises, the incident was not reported to the police, and the bodies were removed and taken to a private mortuary – Red Ford Mortuary.”
Bushiri did not only have Sanco and the Police to fend off as a result of the stampede.
On the other hand, the Mayoral office, after conducting a site inspection at the Church premises, reached a conclusion that ECG did not follow safety and emergency regulations. Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga said that the fire safety section discovered a number of non-compliance items during the inspection.
The Inspection team had found the escape routes leading to the escape doors obstructed. Escape doors to be used during an emergency were also obstructed. There premises also had insufficient firefighting equipment. There were no emergency lights provided in the facility. Other non-compliance found at the venue was no available emergency evacuation plan and improper storage of dangerous goods, such as a diesel trailers which were stored inside the building.
During this same period, the City Press, a South African newspaper, alleged that the Malawian-born billionaire was sleeping with 25-year-old Phumzile Paledi, a former club hostess from Limpopo who works as a presenter on Bushiri’s Prophetic Channel TV. However, it was discovered that the allegations were founded on doctored images.
But in the wake of the ECG stampede, Bushiri distanced himself from his church in an effort to keep his hands clean. Luckily enough, ECG was cleared of any wrongdoing by South Africa’s Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission).
However, what came as good news did not last long for the prophet. A few hours after being cleared in the ECG stampede, the Hawks (South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) pounced on controversial prophet and his wife, Mary Bushiri, for alleged fraud and money laundering.
He only came out on bail after hiring Barry Roux, one of South Africa’s most expensive criminal attorneys who reportedly charges over K2 million a day for his legal services. The couple successfully secured a bail bond of about K10 million in total for their release, awaiting trial slated for May.
The Hawks were, however, not done with the Bushiris despite securing their bail. The Directorate seized the couple’s private jet amid allegations that loan agreement papers used to acquire the jet had been fabricated. From what we have gathered, the controversial televangelist opted to forfeit the jet without putting up much of a fight. The jet has been attached by the South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
But before February is even over, a more daunting story dawned. Several women, both former and current ECG members, came forward with allegations implicating Bushiri and other senior ECG church leaders in what can be described as the biggest sex scandal to rock the Malawian born televangelist.
#NotInMyNameSA, an organisation representing these women, allege that one woman has described ECG as “one big bedroom” for sickening sexual orgies. The organisation has since warned Bushiri to “run” saying “we are coming for [you]”. It said it will make the protests by Sanco “look like a Sunday kindergarten outing if Bushiri does not come clean, and reform”.
In response, Bushiri has invited members of the civil rights group to have access to the church and do their investigations. He has also promised to carry out an “internal processes of investigation” once it is issued with more details on the allegations.
“Once again we would like to reiterate that the Prophet is against any forms of abuse, and church leaders and those who have been implicated in the allegations made by #NotInMyNameSA will be provisionally suspended until all investigations are completed” he said in a statement issued by his media team.
However, Bushiri, while blaming the devil for his 2019 misfortunes, has since assured his followers that the difficult period will come to an end before May, the month he is expected to stand trial for alleged fraud and money laundering.
“They will fight us for now, it will be for this month, next month and the following one, but on the other next one we shall come on top…The devil will use media to attack us, he will use natural disasters to attack us, we will be in media for these coming weeks being attacked. But we shall overcome.” he said.
As the clock ticks, the question on everyone’s mind is: ‘should Bushiri Beware of the Ides of May?‘