Gates at the Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church located at the Tshwane Events Centre yesterday remained closed following renewed protests which led to services at the church being suspended. Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
A DECISION on the future of prophet Shepherd Bushiri’s controversial Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church will be announced by the City of Tshwane today.

This, as services were placed on hold after weekend protests which followed a fateful stampede by congregants on December 28. Three women died and many others were hurt as they ran for shelter during a heavy rainstorm.

Yesterday the gates at the Tshwane Events Centre section where the church is located remained closed after violent weekend protests.

Bushiri’s lawyer, Terence Baloyi, said they were “just taking a break, and services would resume on January 20”. But popular belief was that they had been forced to close down temporarily because of the incident.

The SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) that was behind the #BushiriMustGo demonstrations, and other stakeholders, met executive mayor Solly Msimanga in a bid to find solutions to the problem.

The protests resulted in three Sanco members being arrested and charged with public violence and violations of the Road Traffic Act. They were granted bail of R500 each this week.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities has also intervened.

“After extensive deliberations, the parties agreed on the following - the immediate cessation of all hostilities from both sides, the CRL Commission will pursue negotiations with the church for possible support for the bereaved families,” said spokesperson Mpiyakhe Mkholo.

The parties agreed that a follow-up press briefing be arranged where “further announcements” will be made about the support process

Sanco was given time to consult and update its constituency regarding the ongoing mediation.

Sanco Greater Tshwane Region spokesperson Bafana Nhlapo said: “The meeting went well.

The office of the mayor said we will get feedback, and the police will give us a progress report on investigations with regards to the people who died at church.”

The Tshwane region of the ANC also waded in and accused Msimanga of failing to act on the death of the worshippers. The ANC said the church should take full responsibility for what happened, and support the affected families.

MMC for health, Sakkie du Plooy, has begun investigations into the contract which allows the church to operate at its current premises, at the city’s old showgrounds. “There is no contract between the City and church of Bushiri. That area was given to an organisation called Tshwabac for agricultural show purposes.

They entered into an agreement with Bushiri.

“So as the City we cannot take responsibility for what happened, but our officials did go there for the regular inspection... they assured me that the church is compliant with the City’s requirements.”

Pastor Derick Mosoana, Christians of South Africa (Cosa) president, said they were disturbed by the “nuisance” by “agents of Cain” calling for the immediate closure of the church.

“This misguided attack against the church by Sanco is evidence enough to prove that faith in South Africa is under attack.

“Christians should prepare themselves for a volcano of persecution, perpetuated by the ANC government.”

Mosoana said the country was not immune to stampedes. He made reference to the incident in 2001 when 43 soccer fans died at Ellis Park.