INTERDICT: Prophet Shepherd Bushiri.
Wednesday's march against “false prophets” can go ahead, but the organisers may not in any way defame controversial Pretoria prophet Shepherd Bushiri. The Malawian scored a legal victory on Tuesday when the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ruled that the organisers of the march must not refer to him in defamatory terms on their posters during the event, to be held in Joburg.

Judge Elizabeth Kubushi interdicted organisers of the #FakeProphetsMustFall march, and Martins Antonio in particular, from making such statements on Facebook regarding Bushiri.

Antonio, Solomon Ashoms and Charles Farai may also not allege on their Facebook profiles that Bushiri had engaged in extramarital affairs or make statements linking him to criminal conduct, such as rape or the exploitation of women, especially his female congregants.

The judge also interdicted the three from referring to him as a “devil or satanic”. They must within 12 hours remove all offensive statements regarding Bushiri from social media.

The head and founder of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church and Shepherd Bushiri Ministries International, turned to court to obtain an urgent interdict against the spreading of defamatory statements on social media about him.

Bushiri was not in court on Tuesday, but was represented by two senior advocates, Barry Roux SC and Mabasa Sibanda SC, as well as a string of lawyers.

Angolan expat Antonio was the only one of the three respondents who opposed the interdict. Neither Ashoms or Farai pitched at court, but Roux told Judge Kubushi that they were not opposing the application. The two have already removed offending statements from their social media profiles, he said. However, Roux said it was up to the court also to rule against them, although they were not opposing the application.

“We fully understand freedom of speech, but our constitution does not encourage unlawful conduct,” Roux argued. He said the statements published regarding Bushiri were clearly defamatory.

Roux said today’s march against false prophets was good and Bushiri supported it. “It is something we need.”

But he said it could not be tolerated that Bushiri’s good name was tainted in the process. The prophet feared that posters would be displayed during the rally and these could defame him by linking him to criminal activities and by referring to him as the “devil”, among other things. “This must stop,” Roux said.

He told the court a letter of demand was sent to the three respondents. While the other two did adhere to the demands, Antonio had refused, he said.

It was clear that no love was lost between the two as Bushiri had earlier “propheted” Antonio’s wife and made certain pronouncements regarding him which led to the break-up of their marriage.

Antonio's advocate, Khelu Nondwango, said Antonio could not be held responsible for the material created on a contentious poster, as he was not the author of it. He said all Antonio did was to publish the poster on social media to try to attract publicity for the march.

In an interview with Pretoria News, Antonio said he was not the organiser of today’s march. He was simply invited “as one of victims which suffered under the accusations of the prophet”.

He blamed Bushiri for his divorce and said he had tried to meet with him to talk, but the prophet wanted to charge him R7000. “If he is really a prophet, why will he only meet with me if I pay him? I will attend the march. It’s not about me, it’s about all the victims.”

Pretoria News