Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Bushiri’s spokesperson Maynard Manyowa told media that “there has been an incorrect tendency to conflate the person of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and the ECG Church”.
“The ECG Church is not his church, it belongs to South Africa and South Africans. The directors of the ECG are South Africans, our resident pastors are South Africans,” Manyowa said.
“Even in the contracts, for example, the lease [at the Tshwane Events Centre] is not between Shepherd Bushiri and other parties, it is between the ECG Church and other parties.”
While each ECG Church branch is individually owned, Bushiri is the president of the institution.
“The Enlightened Christian Gathering Church is a South African church, led by South Africans, owned by South Africans and our services are attended predominantly by South Africans.”
Bushiri, who was not at the press conference, is currently in Zimbabwe.
Manyowa said the deaths were not Bushiri’s problem, but a problem that the church must deal with.
“The prophet himself has been distant because he is a heartbroken man, he is a grieving father who must be allowed the privacy to mourn. Moreover, this issue is a church issue as an institution and there are limits to what he can do.”
Three people died and nine others were injured during the stampede at the ECG Church on the night of December 28.
According to the police, they were only notified about the stampede the next afternoon and immediately dispatched officers to the scene.
Police spokesperson Captain Augustinah Selepe said at the time that it was believed that a thunderstorm had caused members of the congregation to panic during the church service, leading to the stampede.