March organiser Solomon Ashoms speaks to protesters ahead of a march against rogue churches in Johannesburg. PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Johannesburg - A group of Christians gathered to march against "rogue" churches in Johannesburg were forced to withdraw placards criticising Shepherd Bushiri due to a high court interdict prohibiting them from defaming the controversial prophet.

Bushiri filed an urgent interdict in the North Gauteng High Court late Tuesday against the march organisers to not defame him on their posters during the event. This came after allegations that organisers criticised and defamed Bushiri on Facebook.

A memorandum would be handed to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights) in Braamfontein.

One of the organisers, Solomon Ashoms, said although the march was not against Bushiri specifically, the placards were withdrawn to avoid getting into trouble with the law.

''This is not about Bushiri, but about false prophets. This about awareness because sometimes we keep quiet and pretend we do not know what's going on around us...let's have that conversation,'' said Ashoms.

PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

''We know people in our communities and churches that had been abused but we're keeping quiet. Another issue is how to deal with this legally through the criminal justice system. So, we are marching here to put pressure on the commission to urgently attend to this problem.''

South Africa has in recent months seen an increase in pastors and prophets who claimed they could heal or instantly create wealth for congregants using illegal means. The rogue churches have been widely criticised for robbing the poor and vulnerable while church leaders lived in luxury.

Ashoms, a Nigerian national, said some of his fellow countrymen were guilty of using religion to make money in South Africa.

''I know some of them do that and I do tell them...we have seen the great commercialisation of christianity where congregants have pay for a prayer, water, they merchandise everything in churches, that is business and nothing else. They live a flamboyant life in expensive suits driving flashy cars...we need to question all these things.''

PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

The CRL commission completed an investigation of all religions and their unscrupulous practices. The report was handed to Parliament last year.

The report showed that churches had been turned into money-making schemes by rogue pastors and prophets who lived off vulnerable people seeking help from churches. The probe found that there were in-house services paid for by the vulnerable congregants seeking God's help. The commission found that some churches even had  ATMs and speedpoints for congregants to withdraw cash for tithes and the purchasing of ''holy water'' and other services. 

The commission had also investigated the eNgcobo cult church in the Eastern Cape where seven church leaders, who were the sons of the church founder, were gunned down during a raid by police last month. The police raided the church after an attack on eNgcobo police station  where five police officers and a soldier were massacred.  

Commission chairwoman Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said Parliament was warned about the dangerous eNgcobo church but had failed to act to prevent a possible tragedy.

African News Agency/ANA