Shepherd Bushiri could know his fate on Monday after weekend in jail

The Enlightened Christian Gathering leader, his wife and another accused have now spent six nights in jail since their arrest on Tuesday

26 October 2020 - 06:00 By shonisani tshikalange
Bushiri, his wife Mary and their co-accused Landiwe Ntlokwana's appeared in the Pretoria magistrate's court for their formal bail application on Friday.
Bushiri, his wife Mary and their co-accused Landiwe Ntlokwana's appeared in the Pretoria magistrate's court for their formal bail application on Friday.
Image: Shonisani Tshikalange

Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri, his wife Mary and their co-accused, Landiwe Ntlokwana, will be waiting with bated breath to find out if they will be released on bail.

They have now spent six nights in police cells after being charged for money laundering.

The magistrate in their case said the formal bail application would possibly be heard on Monday. This is after the defence team objected to the matter being remanded to an initially suggested date of Friday, October 30.

The accused spent all of Friday in court as both teams argued their case.

Braving the scorching sun outside court, supporters of the couple — who lead the Enlightened Christian Gathering church — stood outside singing songs in support of their “father”.

The trio is facing charges of money laundering, theft and fraud.

On Friday, the court first heard a formal application to allow the media to broadcast proceedings.

Bushiri's lawyer said they didn't have a problem with the case being broadcast, but the accused should not be filmed. The prosecution objected to prosecutors being filmed, citing their safety as an issue.

The magistrate then ruled that the media can film the accused, together with their defence team. However, the magistrate said that the prosecution cannot be filmed and that only an audio of their arguments can be recorded.

The magistrate said the ruling included only the proceedings of the bail applications and that only two cameras were allowed inside the court.

Turning to the matter of bail, Bushiri's advocate Anneline Van Den Heever argued that there was no flight risk at play, and that there was a lack of sufficient evidence presented to the court by the state.

The accused made formal bail applications in the form of affidavits.

In his affidavit, Bushiri said he intends to plead not guilty. He also stated that his passports have been handed over to the investigating officer. He also stated he had no previous convictions and had no intention of evading trial or fleeing the country.

“I deny that any offence was ever committed by me. I have no reasons to run away. I have no reason to evade my trial as I need to vindicate myself,” he said in his affidavit.

In her affidavit, Mary Bushiri also denied any wrongdoing. She said she was not actively involved in the business. She added that her children were too young to be separated from their parents.

The other accused, Ntlokwane, who said she spent most of her time volunteering at Bushiri's church, said her family was financially dependent on her.

She said her expenses together with that of her mother and sister normally surpass R10,000 which her mother cannot afford alone.

She also stated that her husband permanently resides in Cape Town and she travels from Gauteng to see him.

Ntlokwana said she is also not guilty that she would suffer great financial loss if she remains in custody.

Van den Heever notified the magistrate that it was difficult to get access to her clients where they were being held during the week.

Bushiri handed himself over to the Hawks on Tuesday last week, while his wife Mary was arrested at their home earlier that day. The Hawks said Bushiri initially tried to “evade” their officers and then handed himself over in the presence of an “entourage of attorneys”.

Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church head of legal and compliance Terrence Baloyi said it was disappointing. However, he said Bushiri remains strong.

“He understands the ways of justice and he believes that one day justice will prevail. Whatever he is going through is just a test of time,” he said.

Baloyi said if the bail matter isn't heard on Monday, they would abide with the court's choice of a new date.

“It has been a long and tiring day,” he said after Friday's proceedings.

“The state has insisted on the request to postpone for further investigation. The magistrate ruled against the state and granted us to proceed with the bail application ... We made our applications in the form of an affidavit and now it's the state's turn to respond and, due to the time, the matter had to be postponed to Monday.

If it doesn't happen on Monday then the court will have to postpone the date. That will be beyond our control and we will have to abide. We have no choice,” he said.

TimesLIVE


subscribe