ECG church disputes Tshwane mayor’s safety compliance statements, insists church venue is compliant

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PRETORIA, January 12 – The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church led by charismatic preacher Shepherd Bushiri in Pretoria West insists that its premises are compliant with city fire and safety regulations and that there is proof of this.

Legal representative for the church Terrence Baloyi disputed remarks made by City of Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga, who told media on Friday that the vast venue rented by the church had been found wanting in terms of compliance.

“With great respect to the executive mayor of Tshwane Solly Msimanga and the officials, ECG wants to categorically state that we have constantly been receiving compliance certificates from the City of Tshwane. We attach the certificates as proof. Over and above the month-to-month compliance certificates, ECG was given an annual compliance certificate,” he said.

Baloyi said that furthermore, the ECG was given a compliance certificate by the Tshwane municipality to hold its December 31 “cross-over” just two days after the fatal stampede at the church premises in which three women congregants died.

“As evidenced by the attached documents from the City of Tshwane events management JOC [joint operations committee], even two days after the unfortunate stampede which claimed the lives of our beloved members, ECG received a compliance certificate for the December 31 cross-over, which [is] a major highlight on our church calendar,” said Baloyi.

“Above and beyond the monthly compliance certificates, our venue of worship has the annual service compliance certificate issued [by] the fire and safety advisory. That certificate is valid until October 2019.”

Baloyi said the ECG had been shocked by Msimanga’s remarks. “Given these factors, and the evidence in our possession, ECG was taken aback by the pronouncements of the city. Such a message from City of Tshwane has the damaging potential of associating the ECG and our leader prophet Shepherd Bushiri with illegality and non-compliance. Our legal department is currently seized with the matter,” he said.

“The ECG church fully submits to the local, national, and international regulations governing our conduct and operations. In that vein, we wish to address all matters raised at the latest inspection for the safety of our members and the community around us.”

He said the church was still going through a period of mourning following the December 28 stampede, “and would not want to draw ourselves into a public spectacle”.

On Friday, Msimanga said his administration would issue “remedial instructions” in the form of an official order to comply (OTC) to the ECG church.

“The City of Tshwane emergency services department conducted a joint site inspection at Hall D and H,” Msimanga said in a statement.

The fire safety section discovered a number of non-compliance issues during the inspection. The team found the escape routes leading to the escape doors were obstructed, escape doors to be used during an emergency were obstructed, insufficient firefighting equipment, and no emergency lights provided in the facility. There was also no available emergency evacuation plan, and improper storage of dangerous goods, such as a diesel trailer stored inside the building.

“There was also no proper seating arrangement during the inspection. The department can therefore not comment on the population load. It was, however, noted by the number of chairs stacked in the halls, that the population is perceived to be high during sermons,” said Msimanga.

The “population load” for the Pretoria venue “may not exceed 778 for Hall D and 1900 for Hall H – provided that all the emergency escape doors were operational.

“It is for these reasons that the city will issue an order to comply. If after 30 days the requisite levels of compliance have not been met, it may result in a prohibition notice being issued, which requires the occupier to cease any and all activity until such time [as] measured compliance is achieved,” said Msimanga. (ANA)