- Bushiri urges all branches to close down
- Botswana branch Spokesperson says they are pressing ahead
- Pretoria church spokesperson says Botswana should also suspend operations
The controversial Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church has suspended its services until further notice amid uprisings and criticism.
The announcement came after its leader, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, said “it was not the right time to have a service” and invited pastors to join him in a mountain prayer and fasting service.
Events began to unravel last Sunday when members of the church were informed through a memo that the Sunday church service had been postponed.
“The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church International would like to inform all its national offices, branch leaders, all stewards, church members, followers and visitors that our 2019 Open Doors Grand Entrance Service, which was scheduled for this Sunday, January 20, 2019, is hereby postponed. A new date will be announced shortly. This message applies to all the branches – no services until announced, “ the memo read.
“All members and followers are advised to continue in prayer and fasting as previously announced by the Apostle Magawa and therefore (an) extension of an extra 7 days is hereby implemented [sic],” the church said in a statement.
The church is under police investigation following a December stampede which claimed the lives of three women and left dozens injured.
Despite the concerns over public safety the Botswana branch of ECG has said that they will not be making comments on the headquarters church closure, further adding that they are in fact pressing ahead with their services. The church in Botswana has 56 cells.
“We will not be making comments on the Pretoria situation. We can neither deny or confirm whether we have received any notifications in relation to that situation,” said Pelotshweu Baeng, General Secretary of the Botswana branch who added that the situation will not deter them from worshiping.
The legality of the Botswana branch remains the subject matter of scrutiny as the churches operations remain suspended in Pretoria. It is not known how the Government of Botswana will treat the closure as Bushiri is the head of the church and the Registrar of Societies has bemoaned the lack of accountability in religious organisations that have their seat in other jurisdictions, which are not subject to Botswana’s laws and regulations.
In Botswana the church is also facing its own woes, as this time last year it was shut down following a violation of the Registrar of Society laws after investigations into allegations of financial mismanagement.
The South African shutdown has worsened the situation for church diehards and loyalists in Botswana who religiously cross to Pretoria for more ‘anointing’.
ECG Pretoria spokesperson, Ephraim Nyondo in a written response to this publication yesterday said: “We made a general statement to all ECG members across the world. We have branches in each and every continent by the way. Besides that, every branch has also been communicated to as to what they are supposed to do including the main branch in Pretoria.”
Nyongo further ascribed the closure to the loss of three lives and said they have gone for prayers. A case of defeating the ends of justice against the church has been opened relating to the removal of the bodies from the church before the police were notified.
Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhube confirmed to South African media that an investigation was under way and no arrests had been made.
Two weeks after the stampede, the City of Tshwane conducted an inspection at the church venue and found it to be non-compliant with safety issues.
It is still unclear when the church will resume and church authorities say the church leaders shall provide direction on the matter.