Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader Shepherd Bushiri testified at the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights (CRL Rights Commission) which is mediating between the ECG and SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco). Picture: Jonisayi Maromo / ANA

Johannesburg - Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader Shepherd Bushiri on Monday apologised for the December 28 stampede at his Pretoria church, in which three congregants died and at least 17 were injured.

"The ECG International Church would like to take this opportunity to reiterate its deepest apology to the South African people for the accident that happened at its Pretoria Branch. Despite being an accident, as a church we took and we always do take full responsibility for the incident and we are comforted and encouraged by the level of support from different South Africans from different parts of the divide," said Bushiri.

Sitting next to his wife Mary, Bushiri was testifying at the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights (CRL Rights Commission) which is mediating between the ECG and SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco). The latter has been protesting in Pretoria, calling for the ECG to be expelled in the wake of the stampede.

"As a church, we will remain receptive to advise and constructive criticism at the same time working with every institution to ensure that we continue to serve the spiritual needs of our people in gatherings that are safe and secure," said Bushiri.

Bushiri's team at CRL Rights Commission on Monday included his attorney Terrence Baloyi and spokesperson Maynard Manyowa.

Earlier this month, three Sanco activists, arrested for public violence at the ECG church, were released on bail by the Pretoria Magistrate's Court.

The trio, who have not yet pleaded, were arrested on Sunday during a protest which shut down the usually busy WF Nkomo Street in Pretoria West, at the Pretoria showgrounds which are hired by the popular ECG church.

The three were granted R500 bail each.

Three women were killed in an apparent stampede at the ECG church during a service on December 28. Nine other congregants were injured as they ran for shelter during a heavy rainstorm.

The three deceased women were identified as Patricia Pringane, Matshila Sarah Mohlala and Lehlogahlo Maria Segodi.

African News Agency/ANA