The High Court in Pretoria has refused to be drawn into the unholy war between self-proclaimed prophets Shepherd Bushiri and Paseka ‘Mboro’ Motsoeneng – for now.
The court on Wednesday morning heard an urgent application from Bushiri, to interdict Motsoeneng from making what he described as “defamatory” statements about him. On Wednesday afternoon, however, the application was struck from the roll, with the court finding it was in fact not urgent.
Judge David Makhoba, in handing down his ruling, said to issue an interdict would be to “presuppose a finding” that the statements in question were, indeed, defamatory.
“I cannot do that,” he said.
He also slapped Bushiri with the costs of the application.
Bushiri’s case against Motsoeneng came in response to “defamatory” statements published on social media and in the press about him.
The statements in question emanated from allegations that Bushiri duped some his congregants out of their life savings by getting them to invest in a dodgy Forex and trading commodities scheme and, in particular, reports about 46-year-old Felicia Sibeko and her husband, Arthur, who claim they lost a total of R130,000.
Bushiri is in the process of launching a damages claim. In the meantime, however, he wanted the court to interdict Motsoeneng as well as the Sibekos from defaming him and for the court to order the offending statements be pulled from the various online platforms on which they currently appear.
Bushiri, too, claimed to have been a victim of the scheme. And he said in his court papers that once he realised it was not above aboard, he took from his own pocket to repay investors – including the Sibekos, whom he said he had paid back in two tranches of R65,000.
During arguments, advocate Dali Mpofu SC, for Bushiri, said the offending statements painted him as “a fraudster, a thief, a liar”.
He said they also suggested Malawi-born Bushiri should “go home” and that they had xenophobic undertones.
Speaking after court, Motsoeneng welcomed the outcome.
“It’s not about me,” he said, “I’m glad the people who were affected, have won the right have their cries heard.”
He said there were no “personal issues” at play and that he only wanted to “help all the alleged victims recover their money”.