Pretoria - The South African Police Service’s elite Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks, on Monday rubbished claims of a plot to discredit popular charismatic preacher Shepherd Bushiri, who is currently in police custody.
Bushiri and his wife Mary were arrested on Friday at their plush Sparkling Waters Resort in Rustenburg in the North West province, for crimes including fraud and money laundering.
“These matters go back to 2015. It’s an investigation. People must not take this as a personal attack against the prophet. What we are saying is that there were issues that were raised with us and as a law enforcement agency, we have a responsibility to investigate these cases,” Hawks national spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi spoke to journalists at the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in the city centre.
Mulaudzi said Bushiri’s tribulations centre around the infringement of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).
“We are making allegations that there is monies that were used illegally during the transactions of some of the assets that Mr and Mrs Bushiri have,” he said.
The Bushiris briefly appeared in court, and they were remanded in custody until Wednesday.
“It [the postponement] was an agreement between the State and the defence. A formal bail application will then be heard. As we speak, the couple is still incarcerated until such time. Investigations are still ongoing,” said Mulaudzi.
“We are looking at issues of money laundering, and issues of fraud. We only got today their passports that we had requested from the defence. We have only received them today. There is still going to be a verification process that needs to be done.”
Bushiri's Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church released a statement on Friday, confirming the arrest.
"They took the prophet and our mother prophetess Mary Bushiri in handcuffs to Pretoria. They have charged our father with fraud and money laundering. As you will remember, from last year, we have struggled with reports that our father was guilty," the church said at the time.
"We have repeatedly learnt from different media houses that we were under investigation. At some point, accurate reports pointed out the fact that certain people within the police had demanded bribes amounting up to R10 million."
At the time, Mulaudzi said in his press statement: "The Hawks’ case against the pair concerns alleged offences of fraud, money laundering, and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) committed from 2015 in relation to Exchange Control Regulations related to foreign currency in an amount of 1 147 200 USD."
Aggrieved crowds of ECG members were on Monday protesting outside the court.
A marked Hawks vehicle was quickly mobbed by the Bushiri followers, with some spraying it with “anointing oil to cleanse it”.
African News Agency (ANA)