Pretoria - The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church led by charismatic preacher Shepherd Bushiri in Pretoria on Friday, apologised for the December 28 stampede which killed three members and injured others.
"It is, and it was unimaginable to fathom that a church, our home, a place of peace, a place of worship, where people come to refuge, where people seek and receive salvation and eternal life, can be the scene of a disaster. We appreciate this and wish to also convey our condolences and unreserved apology. We are sorry," Maynard Manyowa, external media relations manager for Bushiri told a media briefing in Pretoria.
"We would like to convey the same messages of condolence and express our regret to members of our own family, our fellow brothers and sisters, congregants at the ECG church."
Three women were killed in a stampede during a service on December 28. Nine other congregants were injured as they ran for shelter during a heavy rainstorm.
The deceased women were identified as Patricia Pringane, Matshila Sarah Mohlala and Lehlogahlo Maria Segodi.
In the aftermath, the ECG has faced a barrage of attacks, particularly from the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) which has been protesting outside the Pretoria showground, which the church uses, calling for the lease agreement to be revoked.
On Friday, Manyowa reiterated that the ECG believes it has done nothing wrong.
"While we believe we did no wrong, our systems were well prepared, and that in the face of a pounding storm, itself a natural disaster for which there was nothing we could do, we want you to know that we are sorry, and we take full responsibility for the pain, sadness, anger, and grief this has caused," said Manyowa.
He was flanked by Ephraim Nyondo, ECG's communications director and Terrence Baloyi, the church's attorney.
The ECG said apart from engaging the families of the deceased, it is cooperating with the South African Police Service in the charge of defeating the ends of justice opened in connection with the removal of the bodies after the stampede.
"We have engaged community members, carried out internal investigations, engaged experts and analysts, hired more local personnel, improved on our security training as well as disaster management procedures, and taken action against those implicated in our investigations," said Manyowa.
"Right from the very start, we have not had the slightest desire to cover our tracks, as we believe our hands as an institution are clean and remain so, and furthermore, the only way we can learn and be better from this is by understanding exactly what went wrong."
African News Agency (ANA)