Families still in the dark about Bushiri stampede and deaths

By RUDZANI MATSHILI Time of article published Sep 3, 2019

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Pretoria - It has been eight months since the stampede at Enlightened Christian Gathering in Pretoria where three people died, yet no one has been held accountable.

Only some church officials are facing a case of defeating the ends of justice for not immediately reporting the incident to the police.

According to the SAPS, investigations into the tragedy at the Tshwane Events Centre where the church operates were still ongoing.

The stampede occurred on December 28, when congregants ran for shelter during a storm.

The bodies of Patricia Pringane, Matshila Sarah Mohlala and Lehlogahlo Maria Segodi were then taken to a private mortuary, before families said they were advised of the incident.

This led to massive protests after which church services were temporarily suspended, with the public calling for the closure of the church headed by Shepherd Bushiri. 

In the days subsequent to the protests, spearheaded by the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco), three of the organisation's members were arrested and are on trial for public violence and violations of the Road Traffic Act.

Police spokesperson Captain Augustine Selepe said yesterday: “The matter is with the provincial detectives.” 

But for the families of the deceased and the organisations who want answers, this has led to frustrations and more questions than answers.

Deborah Letsoalo, whose mother died in the stampede, said: “My brother was told by the police that there would be a court date soon; that information had already been compiled and they were ready.”

Having followed up on the update of the case every month, Sanco chairperson Abram Mashishi said he had yet to be given a convincing response or progress on the case.

“We have been following up every month on the case and were told the investigation was at its final stage but that they still needed clarity on a few things. I've taken the matter to the Office of the Presidency, saying that we want senior officers appointed who would do a thorough investigation into the matter.”

Mashishi said they still stood by their demand that the church must move from the Events Centre, and they were planning a march to the Union Buildings.

In February, Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane called on police to expedite the case.

Nkosi-Malobane said she had written to the then acting provincial commissioner Major-General Max Masha asking about the arrests of those responsible.

When Bushiri testified at the CRL Rights Commission, he apologised to the families. Services continue, with the most recent on Sunday streamed live.

According to the church's Facebook page, he handed over a school, the Kwacha High School in Malawi which he financed. Bushiri is from Malawi.

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