The TMPD said it was withdrawing its officers, who provided mainly traffic management services at self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri's church services in Pretoria, due to non-payment by the ECG. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - The Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) on Friday said it was withdrawing its officers, who provided mainly traffic management services at self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri's church services in Pretoria, due to non-payment by the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG).

“TMPD has stopped deployment at the church because the church still owes the [Tshwane] municipality for the last event. TMPD will also not provide any services to the church until it settles its account in full and pays the city upfront for future events,” said Tshwane mayoral committee member for community safety Karen Meyer.

She said the Tshwane Metro Police will be meeting the popular church’s leadership to discuss the matter of the outstanding payment.

Thousands of Bushiri’s followers gather several days at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria, and due to the massive crowds, the TMPD said it had been requested to provide crowd management and safety services, not close protection services to the charismatic preacher. The TMPD bills the event organisers, for example soccer teams, a fee.

“TMPD’s involvement in SAPS joint operations is in accordance with the South African Police Service Act, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996) and regulations, and it takes place under the direction and lead of the SAPS. The SAPS has its own procedures for determining the need for deployment, and TMPD plays an auxiliary role as and when needed,” said Meyer.

“TMPD deployment at events is governed by legislation and policies. This deployment includes security services at large gatherings such as soccer and rugby matches at stadiums in Tshwane. Every event organiser is treated the same. TMPD carries out a security assessment upon receiving an event application, and this is charged according to municipal tariffs. This year, TMPD has deployed its members twice upon request.”

Sources told African News Agency that Bushiri’s church has paid R29,000 earlier this week, as the Tshwane Metro Police threatened to withdraw its services. The R29,000 is still short of the overall amount owed by the church.

Bushiri’s spokesperson Ephraim Nyondo issued a statement this week, rubbishing media reports that Bushiri was receiving close protection by the SAPS and TMPD.

“All ECG church services are categorized as events - for which applications are made to the Joint Operations Council/Command which includes SAPS, [Tshwane] Metro Police, Emergency Services, public health officials, intelligence officials and others in compliance with SASREA and Gatherings Act,” said Nyondo.

“As rightly put by Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele, our church events -  which pulls about 25 000 people fall within a ‘medium risk’ category and, as a standard practice of police deployment, our events qualify for police presence. The decision as to the number of the police to be deployed is entirely that of SAPS and TMPD. Further, it must be emphasized that when SAPS and TMPD deploys officers to ECG events, they do so to enforce law and order just as they do at any event.”

African News Agency (ANA)