The fraud case against Enlightened Christian Gathering Church leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, has been postponed for a pretrial conference to 16 October. The couple face charges of fraud, money laundering, and contravening Immigration Act.
They appeared briefly in the High Court in Pretoria for offences they allegedly committed from 2015.
The couple heads the international church with tens of thousands of followers, some of whom were present in court.
State asks for postponement
The state asked for a postponement to next year July, citing COVID-19 as the reason. It said some of the witnesses are in isolation, including an Investigating Officer, who was supposed to take the stand today.
The prosecution team also said that the pandemic has hindered their preparation for the trial, as they had not briefed all witnesses.
However, Bushiri’s legal team opposed the state’s application for such a lengthy postponement. The defense argued that accused people are entitled to a speedy trial.
They also argued that prolonged postponements are in violation of the accused’s constitutional rights.
The defense said on all occasions it had been the state that asked for postponement since the accused were arrested in February last year.
The team says this cannot be correct or fair on their clients as they have always availed themselves. They further argued that the court should refuse to grant the state postponement or should just strike the matter off the roll.
Following arguments from both sides, the court granted a pre-trial conference to be held on the 16 October.
The court says it has taken into consideration the state’s reasoning regarding application for postponement, as well as the defense’s argument opposing the application.
The court told the state to ensure that all is dealt with before the pre-trial conference so that the parties can agree on an earlier date for trial.
In the video below, the media barred from entering court :