SAPS and Tshwane Metro police deploy 96 cops to protect Bushiri

By Khaya Koko Time of article published Jul 3, 2019

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The abuse of state resources to protect self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri have triggered an outcry from SAPS members, raising questions about why a private citizen was receiving police protection.

The Star has seen an official SAPS joint-operational plan, that included the Tshwane metropolitan police department (TMPD), in which more than a dozen officers were deployed to Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church service at the Tshwane Events Centre on Sunday.

Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele confirmed on Tuesday that police were indeed deployed to secure Bushiri’s Sunday service, but said this was standard operational deployment as the church had applied for security through the proper channels.

Well-placed sources with knowledge of Sunday’s operation said it was “an abuse of state resources” to protect a private citizen, considering that communities were clamouring for greater police visibility. The allegations of abuse also come at a time when Tshwane has a possible serial killer on the loose who is targeting homeless people, requiring additional policing.

“It is worse when you consider that he (Bushiri) hired a private security company for the event. So why were the police involved?” asked an insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to the police’s plan, SAPS and TMPD officers were to work jointly with a private company, which was expected to deploy 96 personnel.

Reasons the police gave in their plan for the operation, among others, was that the ECG was under “possible threat” by community members who live around the events centre and “oppose the church”.

As part of its plan, the SAPS wrote that it would establish “uncompromising security measures, limiting the probability of critical incidents (and) limiting the impact of any critical incident through contingency planning”.

The controversy of state resources being used to secure leaders of large churches emerged in February, when Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba admitted that Joburg metro police officers were paid by “resurrection” pastor Alph Lukau to escort him to his Alleluia Ministries International building.

Prophet Shepherd Bushiri

Mashaba said Joburg city police had ceased taking such payments.

But Makhubele vehemently denied that Bushiri had paid the police, saying that anyone who wanted to host an event and wanted police protection could apply to the SAPS.

“That event would be categorised. And if found (to be) a medium risk, that event is going to be policed, and the necessary plan will be put in place.

“So, there is nowhere where we look at a person and say, ‘it’s because this one applied or that one applied’.

“We police any event which is a medium risk,” Makhubele said.

Asked whether the police would again be providing a service to Bushiri this week or whether they had done so before, Makhubele said: “We don’t concentrate on a church, we concentrate on an event. If they apply that they will have an event and we assess that there will be a medium risk, then that event will be policed. We don’t police a church.”

In December, three people died at ECG following a stampede which injured scores of others. The church was found to not have compiled with a range of safety issues by City of Tshwane investigators. Makhubele said police had a plan for that event as well, but he refused to be drawn on its contents.

The Star contacted Bushiri’s lawyer, Terrence Baloyi, who said he would respond later yesterday. When called again, Baloyi did not respond, but promised in a text message that he would call again, but he didn’t.

Questions were also sent to TMPD spokesperson Superintendent Isaac Mahamba. He said Makhubele would speak for him, and ECG spokesperson Ephraim Nyondo’s phone was off.

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