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Bushiri: a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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Bushiri has seized on the opportunity presented by South Africa’s intractable economic problems, in the process coining millions from the gullible

Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader Shepherd Bushiri.

IF ONE is to take the word of Shepherd Bushiri’s followers, outside the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, their absence from voting booths will have an impact on May’s elections.

Their “Daddy” is facing charges of fraud and money laundering involving R15million over the purchase of a private jet.

Some opportunists like the BLF’s Andile Mngxitama showed up at court, hoping to tap the vein of dissatisfaction which for him will hopefully materialise into votes, but that’s a story for another day.

Last Friday, Bushiri, along with his wife, were arrested by the Hawks in Rustenburg after a months-long investigation prompted by the transaction for the jet which, according to reports, was purchased in violation of South Africa’s exchange control violations.

Bushiri is a charismatic pastor, originally from Malawi, but now based in Pretoria where his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church attracts thousands, hopeful that the man popularly known as “Major 1” can bring about miracles in their lives.

But like charlatans before him, Bushiri has seized on the opportunity presented by South Africa’s intractable economic problems, in the process coining millions from the gullible.

In the age of the internet and social media, Bushiri, like other charismatic pastors, has eschewed the conventional communication channels to spread his word.

Nigerian televangelist Tim Omotoso, currently on trial with his two co-accused of rape and human trafficking, and Bushiri find South Africa an attractive destination for their ministries because of the country’s level of development and the fact that the Constitution protects freedom of religion, and association.

In other African countries, the likes of Bushiri and Omotoso would be subjected to all sorts of regulations and possibly imprisonment.

But because of our history, despite popular calls, churches and places of worship should not be regulated.

Like with Bushiri and the thousands of charlatans who claim to walk on air, take selfies with God, feed people snakes and petrol we have to take the good with the bad.

For every Bushiri there are religious leaders doing real work in communities, saving lives and healing souls without fanfare, or instagram accounts showing off luxury cars, private jets and opulent homes.