Johannesburg - “2019 is going to be the best year ever. We are going to be so rich.” These were the late Patricia Pringane’s words to her employer just before she left Cape Town for a service at Malawian pastor Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria.
Pringane was a devout member who paid her 10% tithes to the church, and apparently also contributed a further R7000 to the ministry.
But the day when she would reap the rewards wasn’t to be.
She passed away in what the church described as a stampede on December 28. Others suspected foul play.
Now her sister, Osma Pringane, who was only notified of the tragedy on January 2, and found the body later in a government mortuary, is demanding justice.
“I understand fully that my sister died in their hands, in their premises. The church never notified me nor any family member that my sister had passed away. I moved around all public hospitals until I landed at the police station. The last was the mortuary, where I identified her body alone,” said Osma.
When the distraught sister approached the church for answers, the officials allegedly said she was being difficult. “Then, they told me that I must call them if I need help. I said I don’t think at the moment I need help more than I need justice. I need to know what happened to my sister because she was a sole breadwinner. Two minor boys are waiting for answers.
“I’m not after their money. I’m after justice. It must prevail at the end of the day. This is the one and only person that I had in life. I thought she was going to bury me, but today I’m going around searching for her body,” said Osma.
Pringane’s employer, Benedicte Bergman, is also not satisfied with the purported circumstances around her death. Pringane’s son had earlier found a note inscribed: “Major One declared that within 40 days, God is gonna do what nobody can do for me, the last date is 28 Dec, the last Friday of the 2018.”
Bergman, who heard the news while on holiday in Mauritius, vowed to get justice for her former employee.
“I want justice because there are two young boys that Patricia looked after, her grandson with mental disabilities who attends a special school and another one she took over four months ago when his mother died.
“These two boys have a future ahead of them. I cannot financially take care of them for the rest of their lives. I can pay what is due to Patricia if she was going to retire from me,” she said.
Bergman said when she asked Pringane if she gave money to the church she denied it, saying Bushiri was a wealthy man who did not want her money. This despite a slip found in her belongings with an amount of R7000 that is seemingly made out to the church.
“She jumped from TB Joshua’s church. She was very radical when it came to these kinds of religion/beliefs, and it was all based on prosperity and money. In the last few months she was very concerned about making money. She started playing the lottery which she initially thought was the devil.
“I feel like she knew something; someone had told her something. She wouldn’t have written that in her room for nothing,” Bergman said.
Meanwhile, the church’s lawyer and spokesperson, Terrence Baloyi, denied the church was doing a cover-up over the circumstances of Pringane’s death, saying an internal investigation was under way while the police were also investigating.
Baloyi denied that proper by-laws governing big gatherings were not followed, adding that there had been numerous meetings with the city council in preparation for the event.
“The event wouldn’t have gone ahead if we were not abiding by those laws. We normally do our report or submission to them before proceeding with the event. Otherwise, I believe we would have been stopped a long time ago,” he said.
Baloyi also hit out at a community protest outside the church on Friday, saying it was motivated by xenophobia.
He said Bushiri was concerned by the incident which took place at the church and has communicated his concern.
Police spokesperson Captain Augustinah Selepe said investigations into the incident were ongoing.
“A docket of inquest is open for investigation. A case of defeating the ends of justice was opened based on the fact that the police were not informed of the incident,” said Selepe.
'Content of note questioned'
Pringane’s death has left her former employer with many unanswered questions. The note she left on her calendar, said Bergman, suggested that she could not have written it on her own.
“It is her handwriting, I know that for sure. But Patricia couldn’t write in English like that.
“I’ve got WhatsApp messages from her where she always laughs about the way she writes in English. She couldn’t write like that. So for me, I’m thinking who told her to write that, how was that written, was that written 40 days before her death? I can’t speculate, because I don’t know, but why would you write a note like that?”
Bergman also noted how “surreal” the note on the calendar was. “Did she have a premonition, did she write the note herself and who told her to write the note?”
She also found Pringane’s conviction about her fortunes changing for the better strange. “I said to her, ‘Patricia do you know something I don’t know, have you won the lotto?’ We used to joke like that before she left and she said ‘don’t worry, you will see’. So I don’t know what they had fed her, what they had told her,” said Bergman.