By Zelda Venter
PRETORIA– Prophet Shepherd Bushiri scored a legal victory on Tuesday when the Gauteng High Court, in Pretoria, ruled in his favour that the organisers of Wednesday march by victims of false prophets may not defame him during the rally.
They may not refer to him in defamatory terms on their posters during the event to be held in Johannesburg.
Judge Elizabeth Kubushi interdicted organisers of the #FakeProphetsMustFall march and Martins Antonio – accused of making some of the defamatory statements – from making these statements on Facebook regarding him.
Antonio, Solomon Ashoms and Charles Farai may also not allege on their Facebook profiles that Bushiri has engaged in extra-marital affairs or make statements linking him to criminal conduct such as rape or the exploitation of women, especially his female congregants.
The judge further interdicted the three from referring to him as a “devil or satanic”. She, however, refrained from ruling that they had to apologise to him, as asked by him in his application.
They must within 12 hours remove all the offensive statements regarding him from social media.
The Malawi born prophet, who is the founder of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG) and Shepherd Bushiri Ministries International, which has branches in Pretoria, turn to court to obtain an urgent interdict against the spreading of defamatory statements on social media against him.
He was not in court on Tuesday, but he was well represented by two senior advocates Advocate Barry Roux SC, who defended Oscar Pistorius, and Mabasa Sibanda SC, as well as a string of lawyers.
Angola expat Martins Antonio was the only one of the three respondents who opposed the interdict and who was present at Wednesday’s proceedings.
Neither Ashoms or Farai pitched at court, but Roux told Judge Kubushi that they were not opposing the application.
The two have already removed the offending statements from their social media profiles, he said. Roux, however, said it was up to the court to in any event also ruled 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 Wednesday’s march against false prophets was a good march and Bushiri supported it. “It is something we need.”
But Roux said it cannot be tolerated that Bushiri’s good name is tainted in the process.
The prophet feared that posters would be displayed during the rally, which defamed him by linking him to criminal activities and by referring to him, among others, as the devil.
“This must stop,” Roux said.
He told the court that a letter of demand was send to the three respondents. While the other two did adhere to the demands, Antonio point blank refused, he said.
“Antonio has a bone to pick but he does not know where to stop,” Roux said.
It was clear that no love was lost between the two, as Bushiri had earlier “prophesied” Antonio’s wife and made certain pronouncements regarding him, which led to the break-up of their marriage.
Roux said Antonio was the author of the offending pamphlet, but Antonio’s advocate vehemently denied this. He blamed others, including the other two respondents, for the creation of the posters and the offending words.
Advocate Khelu Nondwango said Antonio cannot be held responsible for the material created on the poster, as he is not the author of the document.
He said all Antonio did was to publish the poster on social media to try and attract publicity for the march.
Antonio, in an interview with Pretoria News, said he is not organiser of Wednesday’s march.
He was simply invited “as one of victims who suffered under the accusations of the prophet.”
Martins Antonio speaks on the #FakeProphetsMustFall march. Video: Zelda Venter/Pretoria News.
He blamed Bushiri for his divorce and said he tried to meet with him to talk things over, but Bushiri wanted to charge him R7 000 for the meeting.
“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.”