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

PRETORIA - The Christians of South Africa (Cosa) organisation on Tuesday pledged solidarity with Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader Prophet Shepherd Bushiri who has faced allegations of soliciting sexual favours amongst several women within his vast church.

"Prophet Bushiri is amongst numerous men in this country who have been accused of soliciting sexual favours. Attacking the ECG church based on those allegations is the highest level of witchcraft which only God can heal," Pastor Derick Mosoana, Cosa president told the African News Agency (ANA) in Pretoria.

"Pastor Phoswa of Rivers of Living Waters, under the leadership of Bishop Zondo, was at some point a victim to smear campaign and was later cleared. Cosa is concerned by the growing level of rehearsed allegations against pastors in South Africa."

Mosoana said the ongoing "smear campaign" against Bushiri is a wake-up call to men of the cloth and churches in South Africa.

Civil rights movement #NotInMyName on Sunday criticised Bushiri, accusing him of taking advantage of several women within his highly popular church which has almost one million registered members.

“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,” the movement's secretary general Themba Masango said on Sunday.

Bushiri's spokesperson Maynard Manyowa said the charismatic preacher has taken the accusations very seriously and has dispatched emissaries to "engage #NotInMyName directly, and to clear the air on the matter".

Manyowa said the allegations cannot be taken lightly and Bushiri is on record at his church, urging his thousands of followers to respect women in all facets of their lives.

Bushiri was recently released on R100,000 bail after he and his wife Mary appeared before the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court where they face charges related to fraud and money laundering. 

The ECG church, headed by the charismatic Bushiri, draws thousands of people to its services on several days each week. 

The police are also investigating a case of defeating the ends of justice against the church following the death of three congregants in a reported stampede and at least 17 injured in December.

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)