Home South African Court refuses to overturn R200m judgment against Bushiris

Court refuses to overturn R200m judgment against Bushiris

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A company owned by fugitive couple Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary borrowed hundreds of millions of rand to renovate their luxury North West hotel and spa.

Enlightened Christian Gathering church leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/African News Agency (ANA)

CONTROVERSIAL self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri, his wife Mary and their company have failed in their bid to overturn a South Gauteng High Court in Joburg judgment, forcing them to repay a loan of over R203 million.

The fugitive couple and their company, Shepherd Bushiri Investments, of which they are both directors and jointly held 80% on the shareholding, had tried to have the March 2020 judgment by Acting Judge Livhuwani Vuma, which ordered them to pay Zimbabwean businessman and politician Joseph Busha’s JM Busha Investment Group the capital and outstanding interest on a loan that they had obtained from Busha’s firm, overturned.

Judge Norman Manoim dismissed their application with costs after finding that they are not entitled to rescission.

Shepherd Bushiri Investments entered into a loan agreement with the JM Busha Investment Group in 2017 to be lent R200m, which was to renovate Bushiri’s luxury Sparkling Waters Hotel and Spa in Rustenburg in the North West.

The loan was supposed to be paid after a year but their agreement was renegotiated and the capital was to be repaid by December 2019.

Bushiri was expected to repay the loan at an interest of the applicable rate but if interest was not paid on time there would be a penalty calculated at the applicable rate plus 2%.

The JM Busha Investment Group told Judge Manoim that Shepherd Bushiri Investments failed to make payments of the interest incurred, forcing the company to issue a letter of demand and later instituting proceedings against the Bushiri couple and their entity for the payment of more than R203.5m at 15.25% interest.

A few days before the matter was heard by Acting Judge Vuma in March last year, Bushiri’s lawyer asked the JM Busha Investment Group’s attorney to postpone the hearing for 60 days to allow the couple and their company to access offshore funding, which due to SA Reserve Bank requirements were not readily obtainable.

Judge Manoim rejected the Bushiris’ attempt to blame their former attorneys for not following their instructions to seek a postponement of the matter and to negotiate, if possible, a settlement of all issues between the parties.

”The failure to adduce any evidence to this effect in relation to the erstwhile attorneys nor whether a complaint had been made to the Legal Practice Council in this regard is telling,” reads the judgment.

Judge Manoim added: “But most improbable of all is Bushiri’s own conduct.

“He was, he states in reply, contactable but never contacted. This seems highly unlikely.

“The size of the judgment debt and the fact that he and his wife were also personally liable to make it unlikely that he was uncontactable on the day in question”.

In court, the JM Busha Investment Group questioned the Bushiris’ standing to bring their rescission application at they were fugitives from justice after breaking their bail conditions and fleeing to their home country, Malawi.

The Bushiris responded that they had fled South Africa due to threats to their lives and concerns that criminal proceedings brought against them were the product of corrupt officials.

They also claimed that since arriving in Malawi their whereabouts are known and were cooperating with their extradition process.

The couple was out on R200,000 bail each after being charged with fraud and money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to a R102m investment scheme.

They were charged with another couple, Willah and Zethu Mudolo, and their co-accused Landiwe Ntlokwana and are out on bail ranging from R250,000 to R20,000.

In July last year, the Bushiris and their company were also unsuccessful in their urgent application to interdict the JM Busha Investment Group from taking any steps by Acting Judge Vuma’s judgment.

South Gauteng High Court Judge Mpostoli Twala found that the balance of convenience favoured the JM Busha Investment Group as it has not received payment of its capital of R200m plus interest and that the prejudice to be suffered by blue-collar workers whose pension funds contributions constitute the entire loan.

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