PROSPERITY GOSPEL: ‘IF YOU WANT TO GET RICH, START A CHURCH’ Cases of church leaders deceiving their followers are rife, say experts. ECG leader Shepherd Bushiri exposed.

If you want to get rich, start a church – ECG leader Shepherd Bushiri exposed

The web of money laundering, theft, and fraud the self-proclaimed prophet from Malawi, Shepherd Bushiri, has found himself in is not uncommon, say various experts.

Theologians said Bushiri is the perfect example of “if you want to get rich and not pay taxes, start a Christian church”.

In October the leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering church, along with his wife, Mary, Lindiwe Ntlokwana, and two others were arrested in connection with the theft, money laundering, and fraud worth R102 million.

Four of the five accused were expected back in court today when magistrate Thandi Thelede was expected to deliver her judgment on the bail applications in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.

On Monday the state opposed bail and argued the accused in the case pose as fl ight risks.

“The Bushiri case is not uncommon,” said criminologist Professor Dup Louw.

Louw said similar cases of church leaders being involved in crimes come to mind, such as the investigation into the Seven Angels Ministry in Port Elizabeth in 2016.

After a fatal shooting in 2016, authorities discovered what was believed to be an isolationist cult that encouraged underage girls to have sex with church leaders as a tribute to God.

“A few years ago there was a case of a prophet in Nelspruit [Mbombela] who convinced his followers that the world was coming to an end,” Louw said.

Louw said the followers then sold and packed up their lives to book into a fancy hotel in Johannesburg where they waited for the end of the world.

“Obviously nothing happened,” he said.

He further noted there will always be resistant groups.

“The law is, however, above any political or religious belief.”

Another criminologist, Dr Pixie du Toit, said the reason these leaders have so many followers was that people were desperate and have “light faith”.

She refers to self-proclaim prophets who “lay hands on the man that walk in with a walking stick in the church who can suddenly walk by themselves later on”.

Du Toit said leaders that pull big crowds are usually smooth talkers.

“They usually target people who are less educated and often suppressed. These people can often sell ice to an Eskimo and so to speak ‘get away with murder’ as they get people to give them money that leads to the fraud,” he said.

“I’ve seen this under all the races. Remember Marietjie Prinsloo whose so-called pyramid scheme resulted in a loss of over R900 million for investors.

“This is not the first time something like this has happened or will ever happen.”

Reverend Pieter Fourie, from an independent church in Krugersdorp, said God does not work with manipulation to deceive people out of their money. “My honest opinion is that these people are false prophets. They engage in spiritual witchcraft and put people under demonic hypnosis,” he said.

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Fourie said a true prophet of God does not pursue luxuries, chariots, houses or gold.

“Someone once told me, ‘if you want to be rich and not pay taxes, build a church’. I couldn’t help but think they were right,” said Theologian Tristan Kapp who is also a reverend at the South Africa Satanic Church.

Kapp said Bushiri is one of many “African prosperity gospel preachers” and has labelled it as “theology with interest”.

“These types of leaders are dependent on desperate people,” said Kapp.

“Their followers are usually very poor people while the pastors parade around in fancy suits and cars. These leaders are often seen as the mouthpiece of God by these desperate followers.”

Kapp said Bushiri is the perfect example of a leader that has 100% trust and support from his followers.

“People are desperate for hope. That is why a leader like Bushiri has so many followers,” he said.

Pastor Richard Mokolo from the CRL Rights Commission declined to comment on the Bushiri matter as the case was already in court.

The law is above any political or religious belief.

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