South Africa-based leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECGC) Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary Bushiri, were arrested by the Hawks on Friday morning, February 1, at their hotel in Rustenburg, South Africa.
As a controversial figure, his arrest, as expected, has been received with polarized reactions.
You have his ‘spiritual sons and daughters’ and, also, his general fanatics who are deeply hurt with the arrest, arguing it’s a mark of persecution for it is written that ‘touch not the anointed ones’.
And you have people—especially Malawians of different divides—who just follow Bushiri arguing that the arrest is a normal legal process aimed at letting the wheels of justice roll on the couple, like anybody else.
It is certain, then, that our response to Bushiri’s arrest, as we always do with any public figures, depends on where you are sitting or standing.
However, there is an interesting perspective regarding Bushiri’s arrest being written by one of Malawi’s finest exports in film industry, Eugene Khumbanyiwa.
Khumbanyiwa takes a swipe at Bushiri’s spiritual children for interpreting the arrest from the ‘touch not the anointed’ perspective.
He ably, and rightly so, argues that Bushiri is going through a normal legal process meant to establish justice and let law takes it course.
Interestingly, he goes further to challenge the ‘xenophobia’ discourse in the arrest, arguing South Africa, from the days of Teba days to Gabadinho, has been welcoming and supportive to many Malawians of good reputation who have never been pounced by the Hawks.
What Khumbanyiwa advances raises deep questions regarding Bushiri. Why—unlike Malawians before him such as the Ernest Mtawalis, Eric Palianais who were always in the media—is Bushiri attracting the jaws of the Hawks? Why, again, is it that what happens to Bushiri breaks the internet, all the social media timelines filled with him?
Well, I have two theories to explain.
One, unlike most Malawians who made names in South Africa, Bushiri belongs to a different taste. He is, arguably, the only Malawian, so far, who does not just attracts millions in South Africa but, also, has a power to influence beyond his church.
In South Africa alone, his church, ECG, has over 700 000 registered members and about 300 followers. You are talking of 1 million people just in his church.
Added to this, he has 3.8 million followers on Facebook, of which, 2.1 million, are South Africans. When he is LIVE on Prophetic Channel, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, you have 40 000 million people, collectively, watching, of which, 67 percent are South Africans. Further, this is the gentleman that has, like a rock star, consistently filled Africa’s largest stadium, FNB Stadium, for three consecutive years attracting over 100 000 people.
These stats, arbitrary as they look, paints a picture of a quite a remarkable figure whose voice has a power to influence millions. Such a person, unlike any other successful Malawian in South Africa, can never be left alone without the watchful eye of the state agencies.
So its no longer just about his spiritual or economic success: Its now, fundamentally, about his independent power to mobilize and influence. That’s the heart of politics. Trust me, no state would leave such kind of a person alone.
Secondly, mostly in Malawi, I have heard arguments, mostly on social media, about people saying: ‘same fate falling on one person, few people come; but when it’s Bushiri, thousands come in.’
Well, it’s that simple.
The Bushiri’s controls social media in Malawi. He has about 3.8 million followers, just on Facebook, and out of those, about 650 000 are Malawians. His wife, Mary, has about 1 million followers on Facebook and, out of those, about 300 000 are Malawians.
Together, they have an average of 900 000 followers on Facebook. In fact, there is hardly a Malawian with such followership on social media.
To mean, any slight thing happening to them, you may have already about 500 000 people talking about it on their timeless either in defense or challenge. Nowhere, I mean nowhere, would one miss either to directly or indirectly hear or read about Bushiri.
So to the question: Why always Bushiri? The answer is simple. He has a stable financial capacity, he can mobilize thousands and he can speak and influence millions.
Malawi has never had such a figure in South Africa and, arguably, the State can never leave such a figure alone without surveillance. It’s such levels of surveillance that better explains his arrest.
But, of course, as Khumbanyiwa argued, he can afford best lawyers. That’s why we wish him well as the wheels of justices takes a toll on him.
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