Po­lice flee from pas­tor’s body­guards

CityPress - - News - MPHO DUBE news@city­press.co.za

Con­tro­ver­sial pas­tor Shep­herd Bushiri and his armed body­guards had a three-hour stand­off with po­lice this week, which ended with the of­fi­cers flee­ing.

The dra­matic scene un­folded at the Sher­a­ton Ho­tel in Pre­to­ria where he stays. Po­lice had tried to ob­tain a statement from Bushiri, who is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated in con­nec­tion with cases of in­tim­i­da­tion, as­sault and death threats.

Bushiri is al­leged to have as­saulted one Martin An­to­nio on three oc­ca­sions be­tween March and July af­ter An­to­nio opened a case against the cler­gy­man at the Com­mis­sion for the Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion of the Rights of Cul­tural, Re­li­gious and Lin­guis­tic Com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into churches. He ac­cused Bushiri of al­legedly de­stroy­ing his mar­riage fol­low­ing his false prophecy. An­to­nio said he lost his wife af­ter Bushiri told her that An­to­nio’s mother had be­witched and cursed her not to have chil­dren. “Bushiri sent his body­guards to fol­low me ev­ery­where I went. They swore at me, as­saulted me and threat­ened to kill me. He wanted me to with­draw my case at the com­mis­sion and the po­lice sta­tion,” An­to­nio said, adding that ho­tel staff and guests had wit­nessed the in­ci­dent. He vowed not to with­draw the case.

Malawi-born Bushiri is the head of En­light­ened Christian Gath­er­ing, a Pre­to­ria-based church that has thou­sands of fol­low­ers through­out south­ern Africa. He claims that he can “walk on air, make the ‘lame’ walk and cure HIV/Aids” and other dis­eases.

City Press wit­nessed Bushiri’s body­guards re­fus­ing to grant po­lice ac­cess to him. In­stead, Bushiri barked or­ders at the po­lice telling them he “needs a re­port” be­fore he could com­ply, re­fer­ring to a search war­rant or a sub­poena. The po­lice tried to rea­son with Bushiri ask­ing to be al­lowed to do their work be­cause the com­plainant had laid charges against him. In a bid to avoid con­tro­versy, po­lice backed off.

“We were out­num­bered by Bushiri’s body­guards,” a po­lice of­fi­cer told City Press, adding that the pas­tor had “pow­er­ful con­nec­tions”. “Bushiri is re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate and we are scared be­cause he is re­ceiv­ing pro­tec­tion from our su­pe­ri­ors. I don’t want to be tar­geted, so don’t iden­tify me. He is in charge and I don’t want to lose my job,” said the po­lice of­fi­cer.

Bushiri owns man­sions and boasts of count­ing top politi­cians among his friends. He claims to own a pri­vate jet and likes to post pic­tures of its in­te­rior.

The pas­tor de­fi­antly re­fused to co­op­er­ate with said com­mis­sion dur­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into churches.

The com­plainant, An­to­nio, who was present at the scene, was saved from the body­guards by the VIP unit of Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa, who hap­pened to be at the ho­tel at the time. “I have opened cases against Bushiri, but noth­ing has been done. He threat­ened to kill me and in­structed his body­guards to beat the hell out me, but I man­aged to sur­vive.”

Vuyo Mhanga, spokesper­son for Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula said: “No one is above the law. Al­leged cases will be looked into ... We will not hes­i­tate to take nec­es­sary ac­tion.”

Phinza Zitha, res­tau­rant man­ager at the Sher­a­ton, said he had heard about the in­ci­dent, but re­fused to com­ment fur­ther.

City Press’ ef­forts to get com­ment were frus­trated by Bushiri’s body­guards.

Shep­herd Bushiri

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