After being in the news recently over the deaths of three people during a stampede in his church, self-styled Malawian prophet, Shepherd Bushiri, is in trouble again following his arrest on Friday.
Bushiri, who is based in South Africa, is facing charges of fraud, money laundering and contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act dating back to 2015, reports South African media, News24.
The Enlightened Christian Gathering Church leader and wife, Mary, spent the weekend in custody after the two were arrested by the Hawks at a hotel in Rustenburg.
More about this
“[The offences were] committed from 2015 in relation to exchange control regulations related to foreign currency in an amount of $1,147,200 [R13.96m],” Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said.
The arrest has since angered his church congregants who have vowed not to vote in the upcoming elections in the country.
Thousands of his followers gathered at the Pretoria Events Centre on Sunday during church service, chanting the name of their leader, with some holding placards on which was written: “I will die for you Major 1” and “We love you Major 1”, reports the HeraldLIVE.
Bushiri’s charismatic church has numerous branches in the country and can be found in other southern African countries. In April 2018, the Sunday World reported that Bushiri was allegedly making so much money from his churches in South Africa to the extent that he was apparently sending R15m ($1,120,650) a month back to his home in Malawi.
The Hawks launched investigations into the allegations while the self-acclaimed pastor told reporters that he was not even aware of the investigations.
When he and his wife appeared in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Monday after the recent arrest, scores of his followers were at the court premises to support them.
The case was postponed to allow the State to carry out further investigations. The couple, who remain in custody, will return to court on Wednesday, according to News24.
The self-proclaimed prophet in May last year reported himself to the police in Pretoria after a week of being wanted over a witchcraft prophecy he made in his church in 2016.
A crimen injuria (defamation) case was filed against the controversial preacher by businesswoman Lebogang Mpane who claims Bushiri declared her a witch in church on live television, local media Sowetan Live reported.
The video, which was later posted on Youtube, showed Bushiri prophesying to his employee Sibongile Mable Miya during a sermon in which he accused the complainant of being a sangoma [witch] and had cast a spell on Miya and her ex-husband, Andile Kula.
The complainant, who was not present at the church at the time, was engaged to the ex-husband of Bushiri’s employee who was being told the prophecy on camera.
Mpane said in her affidavit and cited by Sowetan Live that the prophecy left her deeply distressed and disturbed; her business taking a downturn; her husband losing his job as a result.
Prophet Shepherd Bushiri has been in the news several times for the wrong reasons.
Later in January, Botswana shut down his church for breaking the country’s laws with his “miracle money” mechanism. The “miracle money” is a term that refers to the unexplained appearance of money into bank accounts, handbags and pockets of people “blessed” by the “men of God”.
Also, his freedom to enter Botswana was revoked in 2017 when he was attending a conference in the country. He needs a visa to enter the country.
Bushiri lives a lavish lifestyle believed to be financed by his several churches spread across Africa. Besides the “miracle money”, Bushiri claims to have healing powers and can “walk on air”.