ECG church vows to take full responsibility for deadly stampede
Politics / 8 January 2019, 5:30pm / Jonisayi Maromo
Tshwane - The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church led by Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, on Tuesday welcomed the position of the Tshwane regional African National Congress after it called for stringent measures to avoid the repeat of a stampede which claimed the lives of three congregants.
"We agree with the ANC that safety ought to be a primary consideration at our church. We also accept their stance that we must take full responsibility for the tragedy and render assistance to all victims within our family. We agree with them unequivocally and with no reservation," said ECG media relations manager Maynard Manyowa.
"We accept their advice and are working flat out as a ministry to ensure that we implement their recommendations. We have stated before that this is something we do not want to ever happen again, and we are working with officials to ensure that any compliance and public safety loopholes are closed.
Manyowa said the ECG Pretoria main branch had over 1 000 trained professionals working during every service in the areas of health, safety, security and operations.
"While there have been no incidents for 99.99 percent, and over a period of over four years, the church takes this incident seriously and is doing everything to improve systems.
We have utmost confidence that our systems are robust, but are taking measures nonetheless to improve them. We believe we cannot stop getting better," said Manyowa.
"It is with this understanding, that we have undertaken and engaged local external experts and analysts and consultants to asses our crowd control measures and make recommendations. We would also like to reiterate that we remain a family in mourning, and are overwhelmed by a sense of deep grief."
Since 2015, Manyowa said, the ECG has been hosting between 60 000 to 70 000 people three times per week at the Pretoria showgrounds.
"We have done so without encountering failures in crowd control. Members of our family, and even visitors have enjoyed frequenting our church to worship, fellowship and accept the gospel of good news in an environment that is safe, calming and clean. Two days after the tragic loss of lives, with heavy hearts, and a thick cloud of grief hovering above us, we held a very successful crossover service at the very same showgrounds with no recorded incidents of crowd control failure, violence, theft or crime," he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Tshwane region of the African National Congress accused the municipality's mayor Solly Msimanga of failing to act on the death of worshippers at the popular ECG church.
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 2016 municipal elections.
The ANC said it was concerned because Msimanga "and his corrupt DA-led administration remain nowhere to be seen since the tragedy that led to the deaths of three female congregants at the Enlightened Christian Gathering".
"The city has not reassured the residents nor mentioned any measures to be taken to avoid such indents from happening in the future," ANC regional spokesperson Bafuze Yabo said.
The ANC said it was incumbent upon the city council running Tshwane, home to the church which attracts thousands of congregants at several services each week, to ensure that such "unfortunate eventualities" did not occur.
Yabo said the city had failed to enforce set regulations as stipulated by the country's Gathering Act, "consequently compromising the safety and health of our people".
"What is most appalling is that the metro police headquarters share a fence with this venue which fails compliance on every aspect of the requirement of the law right under their nose," he added.
The South African Police Service says it is investigating the deaths from the December 28 stampede. A case of defeating the ends of justice has been opened, relating to the removal of the bodies from the church premises.
SAPS Gauteng spokesman Lieutenant Kay Makhubela said the investigation was now at a "sensitive stage".