• Countrywide cells to cease operations
• ECG registration cancellation letter says church is violating the law
• ECG says they have appealed the decision to Minister Batshu
The government of Botswana has finally closed down the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG), the church of popular televangelist Shepherd Bushiri after it failed to comply with the law and meet set demands.
Government has been hounding the church in vain to normalise its operations since its registration but finally pulled the plug on it through a letter dated 06 December 2017.
In the letter, the Registrar of Societies’ Michael Mokgautsi states the church’s operations were revoked in terms of section 11(3) of the Societies Act. “I have 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,” he wrote.
On 10th November 2017, the church was asked to submit audited annual returns. “In accordance with Societies 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,” stated the notice at the time. “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 however ignored government’s demands and continued with its business.
Government before this revocation had summoned ECG through a letter to the Civil and National Registration office in Gaborone in a bid to seek answers for a series of transgressions, unfulfilled promises and a constitution which is said to be littered with gaps.
Another letter, whose demands ECG did not honour, was written by the recently transferred Director of Civil and National Registration, Neo Lopang. In a previous correspondence with the church, Lopang had wanted the church to submit account audits. “I acknowledge receipt of the annual returns submitted to this office as per our request dated 3rd June 2016. You are by this notice ordered to furnish the Registrar of Societies with audited accounts of your church. The report must cover the period 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16. The report must reach this office within 28 days from the date of this letter,” this request was never met by the church.
In a 2016 letter to the government on audit issues, the church claimed to have engaged Mamlathan & Associates to audit their books and falsely claimed that “the audit process is towards completion and expected in 15 days.” The audit results were never provided.
Mamlathan & Associates represented by Mompati Kgaimane in August 2017 told The Botswana Gazette that they never audited ECG books and denied being engaged by the church in 2015 as it claimed.
In an interview with this publication, the ECG General secretary, Pastor Peloetletse Baeng confirmed receiving letters of their registration revocation from government, “It is a matter we have appealed to the minister and I cannot divulge the content of the appeal,” he said.
The church’s appeal is in line with Section of 11 (4) of the Society Act which advices that those whose registration is cancelled could appeal to the Minister of Nationality Immigration and Gender Affairs within 28 days after receiving a cancellation letter.
Baeng says they also informed the mother church in Pretoria about the cancellation further emphasising that they do not see any ill-will from the government as they are only calling for compliance with the law.
Bushiri’s Public Relations manager, Ephraim Nyondo, failed to respond to queries from this publication on Thursday as he promised. Should the minister dismiss the ECG appeal, the church will be ordered to stop operations immediately and wrap up. A source said they will only be allowed perhaps to register with a different name, a move which will obviously come at a cost for the brand. As things stand, only Edwin Batshu the minister of Nationality Immigration and Gender Affairs can save the church, should he agree with their appeal.
Despite there being no VISA restrictions between Botswana and Malawi, in March 2017 government placed Bushiri on a VISA requirement list when he was slated to headline a religious event at the stadium. Bushiri never applied for the VISA