Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader Shepherd Bushiri File photo: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

TSHWANE - Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader, charismatic Prophet Shepherd Bushiri on Wednesday called on civil rights movement #NotInMyName to work with him to address fresh allegations of sexual misconduct raised by women in his vast congregation.

"Upon being told of the [#NotInMyName] statement and its contents, the founder of ECG International, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri immediately tasked the leadership of the church to engage NIMNSA so as to get more light, as their allegations were not specific – and more information was required from our side so that internal processes of investigation may begin, and those implicated face disciplinary actions," said Bushiri's spokesperson Maynard Manyowa.

A team of three emissaries has been dispatched to meet with #NotInMyName and engage them. The church has also invited #NotInMyName to conduct its own investigations and has commited to granting them full access to the church, its followers and leadership so they perform a thorough investigation.

Manyowa said the ECG membership has been encouraged to cooperate with #NotInMyName "and if there any victims amongst them, they are also encouraged to raise any issues with #NotInMyName".

He said the ECG church is firmly against the abuse of women and sees #NotInMyName as a partner,  not an enemy, and believes that allowing them full access to perform their duties will help identify, verify, and prevent any form of abuse.

"We are hopeful that our engagements with #NotInMyName will be fruitful, and we hope that their investigation will reveal the truth," said Manyowa.

"Once again, we would like to reiterate that the Prophet is against any and all forms of abuse, and church leaders, and those in influence who have been implicated in the allegations made by #NotInMyName will be provisionally suspended until the civil rights movement has completed their investigations."

On Sunday, #NotInMyName criticised Bushiri, accusing him of taking advantage of several women within his church.

“As South Africa’s most vibrant, recognisable civil rights movement, #NotInMyName has been approached by women – former and current congregants - of the Enlightened Christian Gathering who, in strict confidence, narrate their ordeals at the hands of the so-called man of God and his many lieutenants,” secretary general Themba Masango said in Pretoria.

Masango warned that recent protests seen outside the ECG church following the December 28 death of three congregants in an apparent stampede “will look like a Sunday kindergarten outing if Bushiri does not come clean and reform”.

In the aftermath, the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) led protests at the ECG, with community members calling for the church to be expelled from the Pretoria Events Center forthwith, and for Bushiri to be deported home to Malawi.

African News Agency (ANA)