Bushiri gets bail, but warned not to intimidate witnesses when preaching
Supporters in high spirits celebrate outside court for their freed 'Major 1'
Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary were warned not to intimidate witnesses in their R102m fraud case before being released on bail of R200,000 each on Wednesday.
The news was greeted with jubilation by supporters, who danced in celebration after praying for the church leader known as “Major 1” to get bail at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.
Handing down her judgment in the bail application, magistrate Thandi Theledi warned Bushiri not to intimidate witnesses when preaching.
Strict bail conditions imposed on the couple include:
- Having to report to their nearest police station every Monday and Friday;
- Being barred from disposing of any property;
- Handing over to the state the original title deed to their property in Midstream Estate, Centurion, to the value of R5.5m; and
- Being barred from travel outside the borders of SA and other provinces, except Gauteng and North West.
The conditions also barred them from threatening witnesses, the investigation and prosecution teams – even while preaching.
Their co-accused Landiwe Ntlokoane was granted bail of R100,000, while accused number two in the matter, Zethu Mudolo, was granted bail of R20,000.
Incredible Happenings church leader, pastor Paseka “Mboro” Motsoeneng, was among those who attended the hearing in court.
Another accused, Willah Mudolo, a Zambian, has not yet applied for bail and will return to court on Friday.
The state had earlier raised concerns that the strength of the case against the accused and gravity of the potential punishment likely to be imposed if they were convicted was of such a nature that they may not want to stand trial.
During the bail application, defence advocate Annelene van den Heever said that Bushiri and Mary were prepared to abide by bail conditions limiting their travel.
They are charged with fraud and money laundering related to an investment scheme valued at R102m. The alleged crimes took place between 2017 and 2019.
The state alleged during the proceedings that the accused had benefited to the tune of more than R100m via the scheme through two companies, despite the companies not being registered in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act.
The prosecutor said neither of the companies were registered in terms of the Banks Act.
It is alleged they persuaded members of the Enlightened Christian Gathering church to partake in an investment opportunity within Shepherd Bushiri Investments and Rising Estates that would allegedly yield 50% in returns within three months.
In her bail application, Zethu Mudolo told the court that she had two minor children who needed her. Her lawyer said on Monday that one of them was still breastfeeding and had fallen ill.
The state said Bushiri’s hotel, Sparkling Water, had been attached as security but raised concern that the couple, self-proclaimed millionaires, could afford to forfeit their bail.
In his affidavit in support of the bail application, Bushiri said he intended to plead not guilty. He also said his passports had been handed over to the investigating officer.
“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 the affidavit.
Mary Bushiri was arrested by the Hawks on October 20 at home, while Bushiri handed himself over to the authorities later that day.
Bushiri, his wife and Ntlokoane will return to court on Friday.
Supporters celebrating outside court repeatedly chanted “Major”. But the crowd was urged to disperse as the “prophet” would address them later through social media networks.
“To all sons, daughters, partners of the PSBM and the general public, we would like to thank you for standing in the gap for Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and Prophetess Mary Bushiri in prayer,” read a message on Bushiri’s Facebook page.
“We would like to formally and officially announce to you that our leaders have been released on bail. The Prophet will be talking to us later in the day. We will announce the time.”