Pretoria - The City of Tshwane on Tuesday said it bears no resentment towards the Shepherd Bushiri-led Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church, and that an ongoing safety campaign is aimed at safeguarding the security of the thousands who throng the charismatic preacher's services.
Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga's spokesperson Sam Mgobozi was responding to the African National Congress' Youth League, which accused Tshwane of "unfairly targeting a church led by a black person and attended by a majority black people".
"We bear no ill will to the prophet [Bushiri] and his church, but we want to ensure safety - which is a common interest between the church and ourselves. This is obviously not a concern shared by the ANC who is blinded by its singular and narrow-minded dislike of the mayor [Msimanga]," Mgobozi told the African News Agency in Pretoria.
Mgobozi said the ANC's assertions are "deeply disturbing and are not at all in the interests of ensuring that the church is brought up to code following an in-loco inspection" conducted at the ECG's rented premises last week.
"At no point did the city dispute any permissions granted to the church. The city maintains that, as at last week when the inspection was done, we made some concerning observations which we are optimistic the church will address to ensure that we do everything possible to ensure that we prevent the loss of life and limb," said Mgobozi.
"What the ANC is doing is once again politicising the deaths of the Tshwane residents it claims to be acting on behalf of. It is cheap, insensitive and devoid of class or any moral leadership. It is these sort of tactics that have become synonymous with the ANC in Tshwane."
The South African Police Service (SAPS) is investigating the circumstances around the death of three female congregants at the ECG on December 28, during a reported stampede. A case of defeating the ends of justice has been opened, relating to the removal of the bodies from the church premises.
On Monday, the ANC Youth League Tshwane regional chairperson Lesego Makhubela told journalists that Msimanga deliberately lied in the aftermath of the Pretoria church stampede when he said the premises of the ECG church was non-compliant with fire and emergency by-laws.
"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 non-compliant 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 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."
African News Agency/ANA