Following the arrest of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary by the Hawks over allegations of money laundering, fraud and contravening the Prevention of Organized Crime Act, more allegations from people of his church claim that the couple had conned them in pyramid schemes that were run in different branches of his church.
The two were, in the meantime, released on R100 000 bail each.
Last weekend, the Sunday Times reported that six people had claimed that they had been duped into investing in a scam run by senior members of Bushiri’s church, the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG). The members said they had invested R100 000 each in an ECG church account in the name of Palambano.
Following that revelation, more members of Bushiri’s church in the Shayandima industrial area have said that they were also conned out of their money into a scheme called Merger Chen Solutions (MCS). Investors deposited their money in MCS’s FNB account. The MCS account was using a Sandton address: 159 Rivonia road, Morningside, Ext 39, in Gauteng. The company’s registration is 2016/542059/07.
The members say they were informed about the scheme in January last year at the church, which has a membership of more than 1 500 people.
“Leaders of the church introduced us to Nicholus Mgiba, who is a director of MCS, and Tshepo Inama, a director and accountant [of MCS]. They said they were running the same investment scheme in Phalaborwa and investors had already got their money. A minimum of R1 000 was required for investment, but there was no limit on how much one can invest,” said one church member, who chose to remain anonymous.
According to the contract form of the scheme, those who invested R100 000 were promised R1.8 million after six months. With the hope of getting more money in a short period of time, many people invested R100 000 and more, while some invested R260 000 and others R300 000. Most investors are said to be recently retired people or those who are already on pension.
Within a short period of time, more than 300 people invested in this scheme and by March 2018, they were allegedly told the scheme could not accept more investors. Allegations are that although investors were promised monthly payments from their investments, no one received a cent from the scheme, and they started to get worried.
“When we approached the church leaders, they informed Bushiri, who sent a delegation to meet Mgiba in Phalaborwa, where he is leading Bushiri’s branch there. Bushiri also summoned Mgiba to meet him in Pretoria.”
The member added that, according to information supplied by their leaders and SMSs exchanged with Bushiri, Mgiba promised that he was going to pay them. “He said he was being delayed by SARS and the Reserve Bank. Unfortunately, we have not received our money until today.”
One church member said most of the people who had lost their money had left the church out of frustration, while others were just remaining there, hoping that this would give them a chance to recoup their money.
Limpopo Mirror has seen a copy of the contract signed by the investors that confirms that those who invested R100 000 would get R1.8 million in six months’ time.
No comment was available from the church at the time of our going to press.
Date:17 February 2019 - By: Ndivhuwo Musetha