Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church located at the Tshwane Events Centre. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria – A church service at the highly-popular Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church in Pretoria had to be cut short on Friday night due to a power failure at the rented premises, the South African Police Service (SAPS) confirmed on Saturday.

“Yesterday, [Friday] the ECG church experienced [a] power failure at one of the halls that they were using [in the City of Tshwane Events Center]. The generators and solar panels were also dysfunctional. SAPS and the Tshwane metro police advised the church that it was not safe to proceed with the church service under the current circumstances of power failure,” police spokesperson Captain Augustinah Selepe told African News Agency (ANA) in Pretoria.

Selepe said the church welcomed the police's advice and voluntarily opted to terminate the Friday night service. “The congregation started dispersing at around 9 pm. The police left the Tshwane Events Center at around midnight,” she said.

The ECG church draws thousands of people to its services several days each week. The SAPS is 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.

"The charge is laid, based on the fact that police have established that the deceased were certified died at the church premises. The incident was not reported to the police and the bodies were removed and taken to a private mortuary - Red Ford Mortuary,” Selepe told ANA at the time.

Selepe said the charges were the result of the ongoing SAPS inquest into the death of three "African females" and the injury of other congregants during what has been described as a "stampede to get into the church" by the ECG.

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

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 Showgrounds forthwith, and for Bushiri to be deported home to Malawi.

African News Agency/ANA