Malawi-born evangelists Shepherd and Mary Bushiri were on Wednesday granted bail, effectively ending a two-week detention that saw scores of the preachers’ followers flooding the Pretoria Magistrate Court to demand their release.
Outlining their bail conditions, including reporting to their nearest police station every Monday and Friday, magistrate Thandi Theledi said should the Bushiris fail to adhere to their bail conditions – that include non-travel outside South Africa – the state would confiscate their property for good.
To gain their freedom, the couple, who run the Pretoria-based Enlightened Christian Gathering Church, were also slapped with a US$12,000 bail each while their co-accused Landiwe Ntlokwana and Zethu Mudolo were given US$6,000 bail and US$1,200 bail each, respectively.
The accused are expected back in court on Friday when another accused, Willah Mudolo, is also expected to apply for bail.
Bushiri, his wife and the other accused are facing charges of fraud and money laundering involving US$6 million.
Their two-week ordeal with the law, however, did not faze the hopes of the evangelists’ supporters who camped outside the court to offer prayers for the couple in their past seven appearances seeking bail.
During the Bushiris’ appearances, police were forced to erect wire fencing to maintain order on the street outside the court as supporters sang “release our parents” in Zulu.
One of the supporters and a regular attendant of the Bushiris’ worship sessions, Alex Chikakuda, said he came to the court to stand by the “Man of God”.
Chikakuda, a Malawian immigrant to South Africa, said the arrest of the Bushiris was “due to jealousy because he is a foreigner.”
“He came here and conquered the land,” he said, adding that his (Chikakuda) life had changed for the better since he started attending the evangelists’ worshipping sessions that saw him securing a job and generally improving his way of life.
Multitudes of followers like Chikakuda have made the evangelists become “overnight” successes, earning millions as they combined both evangelism and business since their arrival in South Africa five years ago.