Shephard Bushiri also known Major 1 faces the court of law to seek justice for freedom of speech. Partners with the Enlightened Christian Gathering ECG and a host of other nations have declared support for Major 1.
A few number of European countries and countries from all regions of Africa, have sent messages of their support to Major 1.
Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering church in Botswana closes down all church branches following the removal from register of the organisation last year by Botswana government.
As a result, disciples of Bushiri’s in Botswana have resorted to following their leader through his television channel, while those who have the means are travelling to South Africa on weekends to attend Sunday
The recent crackdown on the church comes just a few weeks after the government of Botswana lifted a visa travelling ban imposed on Bushiri during former president lan Khama’s presidency. Unlike other Malawian citizens, Bushiri, who is also known as Major 1, was forced to apply for a visa each time
he entered Botswana in 2017. The then nationality, immigration and gender affairs minister Edwin Batshu told MPs that Bushiri was “too demanding” Batshu indicated that the government slapped Bushiri with a visa restriction because of his demands, which
were tantamount to a national security threat.
He revealed that Bushiri wanted heavy security from state security organs whenever he was in the country and also wanted government to direct all entry points to be opened around the clock for his convenience.
“His church wrote a letter to my ministry requesting that we open our borders for 24 hours. They stated in the letter that, given the stature of the pastor, we should open the borders as per their request,” he said. The lifting of the travel restrictions came into effect on October 21 and no reasons were given for the decision.
However, the jovial mood among Bushiri’s disciples following that decision turned sour last week.
They were stunned when the government moved swiftly to close church branches around the country.
Last year, the government, through the nationality, immigration and gender affairs department, deregistered the church after it failed to provide the state with a copy of its audited financials for three years in a row.
The church approached the courts last year to oppose the deregistration, but later withdrew after Bushiri intervened and asked the leadership to desist from taking the court route to resolve their differences with the
Last week, a letter that was dispatched to the church from Botswana police commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe, dated November 11, warned the church to stop congregating or undertaking church activities because they were operating illegally.
The Botswana Police Service indicated in the letter that it was executing a decision that was made by the department to deregister the church in March last year.
“Following the deregistration of the church and its branches by the Registrar of Societies, the church sought to challenge the decision through the courts,” reads part of the letter.
“The church, however, withdrew its applications as per court order … dated July 3 2019. This meant that the decision to deregister the church stood, hence it should not operate 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.”