By Prudence Minayo
The last few decades have ushered in a boom in rich preachers who live large and preach the message of prosperity. Prophet Shepherd Bushiri is one of the richest preachers in South Africa. According to The Star, his church attracts up to forty thousand congregants every Sunday. People travel from far and wide to get a glimpse of the man of God. As far as UK, USA and Asia.
He proclaims the prosperity gospel and purports to have healed the sick including those with HIV/AIDS.
“One time I got doctors here in Pretoria to bring patients with HIV – they tested them before to show they are HIV, I prayed for them and again afterwards and now they were HIV-negative.”
Major 1, as he is sometimes referred to, became famous after a video of him walking on air surfaced online. He operates what is said to be the largest church in Africa, drawing in hundreds of thousands of viewers on his television station. His New Year’s Services at FNB stadium draws in approximately 95,000 people.
The ECG founder grew up in the Northern part of Malawi in a village called Mzuzu. Due to the events surrounding his birth, his mother called him Shepherd acknowledging God as her Shepherd.
He was born to a Malawian father and a Zambian mother.
The man of the cloth is the founder of a Christian non-denominational evangelical ministry called Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG), whose Headquarters are based in Pretoria, South Africa. He describes the church as a prophetic ministry founded on the principle that God cares and loves people and wants to speak directly to them.
He has refuted claims that he is a fraud. His wealth, he says, comes from private investments and not the church. This is what he says even as several merchandises are sold at his church. From anointed oils to custom made t-shirts. All of which are said to have been prayed for by him.
While he seems to have popped out of nowhere, he runs a company known as Shepherd Bushiri Investments. The company made headlines after it was accused of fraudulent activities. A supposed Ponzi scheme ran by the company collapsed leaving pensioners stranded after conning them out of USD6 million. A multi-million hotel owned by the prophet was seized after he skipped bail in a case regarding the alleged Ponzi scheme. The Sandton based company has interests in mining, real estate, forex trading and the airline industry.
Prophet Bushiri also runs a television station, a telecommunications company farms and other properties.
Through giving, he has been able to impart the lives of many in South Africa, South Sudan, Malawi and Nicaragua among other nations. He founded Shepherd Bushiri Foundation which has reached out to the helpless and needy. He provides humanitarian relief and helps orphans and other disadvantaged people.
Apart from the Ponzi scheme, he has been implicated in a number of scandals including:
- In 2010, he was accused of impregnating a Malawian teenager. He then tried to bribe her with R1500 for her to abort but she declined and gave birth to the baby. He denied the claims.
- A Hong Kong-based businessman claimed to have not received R450,000 for clothes he sold to Bushiri through his spokesman Maynard Manyowa
- A former deputy finance minister of Zimbabwe accused him of sleeping with and impregnating his wife Rachel. Allegations that were denied by both Bushiri and Rachel.
- In March 2021, South African police charged him with 16 counts of rape regarding 8 victims. It was claimed his targets were women and girls from his church. The girls, the youngest being 15, were reportedly raped in hotels before being sent away with $500 or $700. Police then said they were investigating his associates who were believed to be intimidating and paying off the girls so they could recant their statements.
Together with his wife, he has been arrested and accused of fraud and illegally acquiring the South African Visa.
He is married to Mary Bushiri with whom he had two daughters. Bushiri announced the death of one of his daughters in Kenya on March 2021 following a long respiratory illness.