Bushiri urges his flock not to shun elections

Controversial prophet Shepherd Bushiri has encouraged his followers not to lash out at the state for his arrest by abandoning voting in this year's national elections.

Bushiri, 35, delivered his first Sunday sermon since being released on bail from police holding cells five days ago after he was arrested by the Hawks, along with his wife, in connection with fraud and money laundering charges.

Yesterday, halls packed to the rafters with fanatical congregants of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church erupted in loud cheers and screams as Bushiri walked in sporting a black suit and a bright yellow tie.

After ascending to the podium Bushiri, also known as the Major One, took the opportunity to encourage members of his flock to vote.

Many had threatened to abandon the polls amid complaints that their leader was being victimised and unfairly targeted.

"I hear people saying 'no Major One, no vote'. You come from different political affiliations. There are so many people from [the] ANC, EFF and BLF and we encourage you to go and vote. It is a responsibility of church leaders to encourage our members to go and vote because you are the voice of your choice," Bushiri said.

People clapped their hands in excitement while others could be heard shouting: "Amen, speak daddy! Speak Major!"

The same passionate display of loyalty could be seen in those who prayed outside the court building in Pretoria following the arrest of the Bushiris.

According to the Hawks, Bushiri and his wife were charged with offences including contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and money laundering. They were both released on R100,000 bail each and are expected back in court on May 10, two days after the general elections.

Yesterday, Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama and other political leaders from the ANC and EFF could be seen in attendance.

Bushiri also thanked his followers for their support. "I really appreciate you. God bless you for your support," he said.

Bushiri then went straight into his sermon, which spoke about the importance of understanding God's timing in your life.

The main hall, the overflow area as well as the miracle tent were all fully packed.

Others had to sit outside the tent while viewing the service on a big screen. People selling church merchandise, including calendars with the prophet's image on them, could be seen moving around.

One of the congregants attempted to sell a Prophet Shepherd Bushiri Network SIM card to a member of the Sowetan team, saying "with this SIM card you can get a message from the prophet on your phone for just R10".

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