The leader of popular Enlightened Christian Gathering church Shepherd Bushiri who is wanted by the South African law-enforcement agencies and courts, on Monday said the additional warrants of arrest issued on charges of rape were part of a conspiracy against him.

Bushiri said “I am neither shocked nor surprised with media reported warrants of arrest because they are just part of the larger crusade to try and persecute my name in the media by a team of same white police officers notably from the Hawks”.

The additional warrants of arrest are for different rape charges registered with the South African Police Service in 2018 and another one registered in 2020.

In August, Bushiri’s accusers were interviewed by television news channel eNCA. The women, whose identities were hidden, claimed that they were congregants at the time they were made to meet Bushiri and were raped at a Pretoria hotel.

Bushiri has maintained that the women were trying to extort money from him. He said police officers were also in on the extortion.

“These are white police officers that I opened extortion and corruption cases against in 2018 after they tried, unsuccessfully, to extort about R10 million from me. At the time, they were clear and on record saying that ’failure to pay the R10 million would result in immediate retaliation’,” said the self-proclaimed prophet.

“Despite confirming opening of such cases, South African authorities haven’t taken any relevant steps to bring to book these white police officers. Instead, these officers were let loose, riding on the back of State resources, and embarked on a crusade to cover up their crimes by launching and issuing numerous warrants of arrest against me.”

He said “As (if that was) not enough they are again the same white police officers who arrested me in October 2020, and, again, without any official confirmation I bet it’s the same police officers. I have been advised – which advice I accept – that rape cases are not handled by Hawks but South African Police (SAPS) designated unit known as Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS)”.

“I had launched complaints on how Hawks were recruiting girls to fabricate charges of rape and to date no reprieve for me. Some of these were confirmed via various videos of those who came back to confess such wrongful conduct.”

Bushiri lamented that as long as the Hawks officers persecuting him were on his case, he would not get a fair trial in South Africa “because those white officers are surely and evidently so driven by vengeance, not justice”.

The clergyman, who has fled South Africa back to his native Malawi, denied the rape allegations.

“Above all, as a revered man of God, a husband and father who understands that rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I stand and believe in. As keen as I am to clear my name, I unequivocally refuse to feed the media spectacle created by white police officers bent to cover up their crimes. My conscience is very clear and so it shall remain,” he said.

Bushiri and his wife Mary fled the country after they were granted bail of R200 000 each on charges of fraud, theft and money laundering by the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court. For that escape, the Pretoria court has previously issued warrants of arrest.