Bushiri church closure case stalls in court

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TEFO PHEAGE

The case in which the government has closed down all branches of the popular televangelist, Shepherd Bushiri’s church- Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) has been postponed indefinitely.
The case was due last-week Friday at Lobatse High Court where both parties learnt that the presiding judge was off duty on a pressing family engagement and that the new date of the matter will be communicated once the judge is back on duty.
The church is currently under trial for non-compliance with the law after they repeatedly snubbed persistent calls to comply by the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs leadership.
The Registrar of Societies, Michael Mokgautsi, in the de-registration letter said “I hereby give notice that, in terms of section 11(3) of the Societies Act, I have on this day cancelled your registration under the said Act on the following grounds. Your society has not responded to the notice of the 10th November 2017 in which it was required to show reasons why it should not be cancelled,”
The letter on the 10th November 2017 called on the church to submit audited annual returns. “In accordance with Societie4s Act Chapter 18:01, section 16 (1) as read with regulation 15 of the Act, your society was to submit to the registrar of societies annual returns by the 31st August 2017, which your society failed to do.”
The same letter continues: “Your society has not responded to the notice. On this note I have no reasons to believe that your society has ceased to be a society to which the society’s Act Cap 18:01 applies.”
The church has appealed the decision to the high court and wants the decision by the Ministry rescinded and that they be accorded ample time to comply. The court is called to make a determination on whether the Ministry acted within legal limits to close down the church given the case’s merits and demerits.
The controversial decision by the Ministry caused confusion within the members of the church and sympathisers and impressed those who are anti charismatic churches and seeing that as institutions created to steal money from the poor and vulnerable.
Sources said the former president Ian Khama had wanted the church to be closed for their flagrant disregard of the law and alleged shady operations. The matter is now a case of the law and not personal preferences and emotions, a source said.
The Minister who made the taxing decision to de-register the church , Edwin Batshu has thus been relieved of his ministerial duties by the new President Mokgweetsi Masisi and has been replaced by Dorcus Makgato who was previously with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
At the time of closure the church was preparing to open about 20 more branches in other parts of the country according to the church leadership. Sometimes back the church leader- Bushiri who is based in Pretoria, wrote a letter to the Minister Batshu pleading for leniency from the Minister but his letter was unsuccessful as it was deemed to be little too late. ECG is represented by Thatayotlhe Noke of Thata Noke Attorneys.

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