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Major 1 Botswana’s Bushiri followers troop to South Africa

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Botswana’s followers of Major 1,  Prophet Shepherd Bushiri of Enlightened Christian Gathering church were this Sunday forced to drive and ride in their numbers to Pretoria and other centres in South Africa to attend the Sunday service of the church after the police in Botswana enforced a court decision that deregistered the church last year.

A fortnight ago, authorities in Botswana reminded the church that it was operating illegally after the department of nationality, immigration and gender affairs deregistered the church last year after it failed to provide the state with a copy of its audited financials for three years in a row.

Following the deregistration last year, the church immediately approached the courts to oppose the deregistration, but later withdrew the case after being advised against going to court to resolve their differences with the government.

The church, boasting over 60 branches across Botswana, continued operating even after withdrawing from opposing the deregistration, and only two weeks ago on November 11 did they receive a letter from the police, reminding them of the government’s stance on the legality of their entity.  

Thus the staunch followers of Major 1 in the country, in abiding by the reminder prohibiting their gatherings in Botswana, flocked their South African branches this past Sunday with more even attending in Pretoria at the headquarters of the church. A lot more who could not afford a return trip to South Africa remained behind to follow their leader through the church’s television channel.

On October 21 however, Bushiri’s followers were excited when President Mokgweetsi Masisi’ s government lifted a visa travelling ban that that Bushiri was slapped with during the era of former president Ian Khama.

Malawi citizens are not expected to apply for Visa to come to Botswana but Bushiri was singled out for allegedly being seen as a nuisance by the then government, accusing him of even making extravagant demands such as being provided security and to have al border gates opened 24 hours during his visits to Botswana to allow his other African followers convenience when they wanted to come see him in Botswana. It is these demands the government then found to border on national security and thus imposed a traveling ban on him.

A few days after the lifting of the Visa restriction however, the church was forced to close down, leaving Bushiri’s followers with no option but to cross the border to attend his service. “There was many of us attending the Sunday service in Pretoria and I must say all went well as you can see we are back in the country in good health. Next week I will follow proceedings on television and the other week I will again go to Pretoria,” shared Alvin Modukanele who revealed he had traveled by kombi with other church mates from Gaborone, Molepolole, Ramotswa and Mochudi on Saturday.

He added that while the local church members were disappointed with the government’s decision, they were nevertheless understanding of the legal requirements that have to be followed, and hoped the church will resolve their differences with the government soon, to allow them to open their church branches in Botswana.

 “Notwithstanding the above, it appears that the church continues to operate unlawfully within our country. We have therefore been requested to intervene, and ensure that the church and its branches around the country do not congregate or undertake any church-related activities.”

A high-ranking official of the church in Botswana, Pelotshweu Baeng, also shared that they would be abiding by the directive to cease operation until the impasse has been resolved. He revealed further that actually the church followers started attending in South Africa last week and expressed hope the matter will be resolved.

CLOSED DOWN: Major 1’s follower’s in Botswana are hopeful the church’s differences with government will be resolved soon.

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