THOUSANDS of people flocked to the Tshwane Events Centre yesterday for the first Sunday service at the Shepherd Bushiri-led Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church since his release from custody.
Multimillionaire Malawian Bushiri and his wife Mary were granted R100 000 bail by the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria last Wednesday, having been arrested for alleged fraud and money laundering. The Hawks said they had been investigating the matter since 2015.
It was also the first official service since three women died in a stampede in December. The matter is still under investigation.
Yesterday people from all over the country and Zimbabwe filled the halls at the show grounds for the service.
All four halls were packed to capacity as people watched via TV screens. Bushiri was in one of the halls.
Unshaken and adamant, his followers said Major 1 or Papa, as the prophet is known, was righteous in their eyes. The congregants said Bushiri and Mary were innocent.
The Bushiris appeared before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities to explain the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three women.
It was recommended that the church find a suitable venue.
A huge turnout of his followers outside the court early last week indicated the lengths to which his flock will go to support him.
Patricia Molefe said people had to stop making it seem like they were crazy and hypnotised, because Bushiri was a good man who performed miracles in their lives.
“Our Papa is a good man; you can see now thousands of people are here to testify to the miracles he brings. The negativity must stop,” Molefe said.
Another self-proclaimed follower of Major 1 said nothing would break the relationship between Bushiri and his flock.
“Look at the screen, people from as far as Zimbabwe are giving their testimonies. So the dark cloud that might have surrounded our Papa and Mama will go away. We believe that. We do not believe in what we read in the papers,” said the man, who refused to give his name.
Bushiri told those who could not get into the halls, or miracle tents, that even though they were not in close proximity, he was close to them; they were breathing the same air as he was.
He said he would deliver them as he did not know what had bothered them during his absence.
“I have not been around, therefore, I do not trust anything that has happened to you in my absence.”
The Bushiri couple is due back in court on May10.
The State is also expected to approach the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for an order to preserve his assets.