A social media hashtag campaign aimed at securing the fall of one of Africa’s leading spiritual leaders is seemingly gaining momentum on local soil as a Polokwane-based business personality is engulfed in a harrowing internet war reportedly sparked by a publicised prophecy that allegedly led to his divorce a year ago.
Polokwane business owner Martin Antonio’s target is well-known Malawi-born prophet Shepherd Bushiri, who reportedly boasts a mass following fondly referring to him as Major 1 and runs an empire of global business concerns from Pretoria, after a prophecy that allegedly led to Antonio’s divorce from then wife Mpho.
Antonio, otherwise known as Pico Santana in biker circles, informed Polokwane Observer that he had instituted criminal charges of assault and intimidation against the clergyman after two separate incidents last year but claims that nothing has come of it since. References for numbers for cases instituted with Pretoria West and Sunnyside Police stations respectively were furnished.
He confirmed that he also instituted a civil suit against Bushiri by claiming R13 million for allegedly defamation, a matter that is reportedly still pending. According to him none of the threats for counter-action materialised.
It was learnt that protest action to the Union Buildings to draw attention to the campaign is in the planning for near future.
Alleging that the pastor is a fake prophet, Antonio further stresses that Bushiri’s prophesy in church with his ex-wife present last January, has led to misery and the actual break-up of his family. According to Antonio the prophecy allegedly predicting that his mother would have cursed his wife was shared on live television via a dedicated satellite channel, which he viewed while in Burgersfort. The first criminal matter pertaining to a charge of intimidation registered with Pretoria West Police Station stemmed from the incident in church, he informed Polokwane Observer.
Antonio points out that the second case followed a reported incident at a hotel in Pretoria where he stayed over in July last year and was allegedly confronted by the prophet’s right-hand man, who summoned two more men to attack him while he was having dinner in the restaurant at the establishment. They even took pictures of him that were later found on their phones, he adds. A week later he was requested to go to Pretoria for purposes of the investigation and while back at the hotel there was an altercation during which the Police were chased from the establishment by the prophet’s security contingent who outnumbered them, he claims.
Antonio continues saying that in an initial attempt to reconcile with his ex-wife he had approached the prophet’s office after the initial incident, to be told that he was requested to first produce R7 000 for a one-on-one consultation and that they first had to cover their faces in anointment oil – which he had established was cooking oil – for three consecutive days prior to a set meeting. According to Antonio he was quoted
R1 500 for the bottled oil, but he refused to pay.
A procedure during which Antonio appeared to attempt to secure the appointment was captured on a video clip posted with a host of others on a social media portal.
He indicates that due to the fact that his ex-wife trusted the prophet instead and returned to church they haven’t managed to reconcile, as he would have been forced to join his then wife in church while shunning his parents and family in the process. He expresses his opinion that his ex-wife still believes she is alive because of the prophecy.
In additional footage posted on the internet both men can be witnessed slinging warnings at one another, including rather harrowing bursts of outrage attributed to the man of the cloth. In a recording Bushiri cautions that he doesn’t fear anybody or anything but God and that his anger would lead to him reacting. In no uncertain terms Antonio invites his opponent in war to meet him and advises that he is not being protected by bodyguards as is the case with Bushiri, but that Jesus Christ is his bodyguard. “I’m unstoppable,” Antonio vehemently declares in one of the videos.
As part of the #Bushiri Must Fall campaign, that got a foothold for the first time in February last year, Antonio is simultaneously questioning the credibility of the prophet’s South African citizenship and the establishment of an institution of higher learning that made headlines for reportedly not having been registered and was forced to close down. In no uncertain terms Antonio demands Bushiri’s departure from South Africa, stressing that South Africa should close down Bushiri’s religious concerns as is the case thus far in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
As far as could be established Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering Church or PSB Ministries reportedly has a branch on the outskirts of Polokwane, operated under Grace of Victors Ministries International that is housed in the hall of an old accommodation establishment serving as gathering place for an estimated more than 1 000 congregants at a time. A poster with, among others, a larger than life image of the prophet greets visitors at the entrance.
All attempts to obtain comment from Bushiri on his cell phone, that of his wife and the number for his investment company in Sandton at the time of going to press were unsuccessful. None of the contact details on the varying website links followed proved responsive or seemed active without further contact numbers provided. A last attempt to secure comment early yesterday (Wednesday), however, ended in the receptionist at his business refusing to take down contact details, as per initial offer, upon identification by Polokwane Observer. She immediately indicated that she was busy, that the journalist had to phone back later and when asked for an alternative means for obtaining comment provided an email address for contact information to be sent through.
Upon an email request for comment having been sent a reply was received from the investment company referring Polokwane Observer to the public relations officer at Prophetic Channel. The email further contained caution and the response is quoted verbatim: “Kindly note that any un-researched, false defamatory material published would certainly attract the most vehement legal action, needless to state at your own risk and detriment as to costs consequential thereto, and flowing therefrom, needless to say, without further or other reference to yourselves whatsoever.” Response is still awaited.
Story: YOLANDE NEL