Chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva addressing media in Johannesburg regarding the ECG stampede which killed three congregants. Photo: Jonisayi Maromo / ANA

JOHANNESBURG – The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) on Friday said all the interested parties had been informed of its findings on the debacle around the December stampede which happened at Shepherd Bushiri's Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG) hosted in the Tshwane Events Centre which resulted in the death of three congregants.

“We have emailed [the findings] to the three parties concerned. We are not asking them for comments because we are making findings and recommendations. We had hearings, so it is for us to draw conclusions and not to go back to the people and say how do you feel about these findings,” chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told reporters in Johannesburg.

“That would be unconstitutional if we do that. We have a mandate to fulfill. The Act is very clear in terms of how we should do investigations and that’s what we have done. They can comment – it’s a free country, they can negate our recommendations, it’s a free country but this is what we say.”

The CRL Rights Commission has found that the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Tshwane municipality both failed in their mandate and duties when the December 28 stampede happened.

“Part of our findings is that SAPS did not adhere to the [Safety at Sports and Recreation Events] Act, which then makes it a very difficult situation. In terms of what happened to the bodies, who moved the bodies, we are all waiting for the police to tell us who did what and who did not do what. They are the experts in this matter, but the church has given us their version. We are waiting for the police’s version,” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

“The City [Tshwane] does not have a version because they were not there. They were supposed to be there [at the church service], but they were not there. They don’t have a version. Their people who were supposed to be there were on leave. No one from the city can give us any direction. So the city and the SAPS are in the same situation – you were supposed to be there, you were not there, so you cant tell anyone what happened.”

She said the only version currently on the table is that of the ECG church “because the church was there”.

Three women were killed in an apparent stampede at the ECG church during a service on December 28. At least 17 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.

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

On Friday, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said her Commission has concluded that the religious event hosted by Bushiri, where the stampede happened was fully compliant with municipal bylaws and the Safety at Sports and Recreation Events Act (SSRE Act).

"The commission finds as follows:  The application by ECG Church for the event of 28 December 2018 was fully compliant with the bylaws and the Safety at Sports and Recreation Events Act 2 of 2010. There are elements of non-effectiveness in the bylaws and the JOC [Tshwane's joint operations committee] system," said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

"There was, per section 17(2)(a)(i) of SSRE Act, supposed to be a venue operations centre (VOC) established at the event of 28 December 2018 since the event is categorised as medium-risk. Such was not established."

The VOC had to be composed of various bodies including but not limited to police officials, disaster management services, fire department, emergency medical services.

African News Agency (ANA)