That Prophet Shepherd Bushiri is undoubtedly one of the most famous Malawians in history is a given fact. His appeal on the global arena in religion, business and, as it is becoming increasingly clear, the arts, he is in the clique of global icons.
Yet, for many, he remains an enigma. Like wild bushfire, his fame spreads but he is a closed book for many.
There was tight security Tuesday night at Victoria Gardens in Blantyre at the no-ticket-no-entry launch of Bushiri’s six books. The urban locale spotted twinkling lights, red carpet and elegantly clad guests, with heavy police presence, side by side with private protection.
As the South Africa-based prophet’s motorcade, which included a 2016-made Bentley and a 2017 white Mercedes Benz G-Wagon arrival, thoughts of the 35-year-old’s many faces ran into my mind.
He entered the door, some two hours behind detail and a contingent of aides made their way into the hall. That was moments after guest of honour, Minister of Homeland Security Charles Mchacha entered by that door, which had the banner: Ambassador His Excellency Dr Shepherd Bushiri book launch under the theme ‘Readers are Leaders’.
Here was the controversial prophet, known to have captured angels on a tablet and at one point levitated—walked in the air—for the cameras. A man, whose prophecies, at times controversial, have been featured highly on mainstream and social media; a man who not so long ago was being investigated by the South African police for alleged money laundering.
Flip. Here was the man, who attracts millions of followers on social media from across the globe; a Malawian, who could fill up South Africa’s FNB Stadium a little after South African hip hop star Cassper Nyovest filled up the 68 000-strong stadium.
And to cap it, here is Bushiri, or Major 1, as his followers fondly call him, who has won a number of awards for his charity works in many countries, including Malawi.
Here is a man who has featured in global media, including the BBC, Al Jazeera, New African, African Leadership Magazine, Nigeria’s Tribune and other South African publications.
If Bushiri were an art object, he could have been an abstract one. And, for that matter, he could have been an abstract art object in 3D.
That was clear Tuesday night for it was not solely about Bushiri the founder of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG). Neither was it just about his global business empire under the banner Shepherd Bushiri Investments (SBI). It was majorly about the launch of six books on different topics, from the Shepherd Bushiri Publishers (SBP) stable.
The books are an array of subjects. Names of God brings out the many names of God to evoke His high seat for specific purposes, Mysteries Surrounding Your Money, which brings out the reality of the Biblical analogue that mammoth can easily waste money.
Yet another book, Crafts for Effective Public Speaking. Coming from a man who can keep hundreds of thousands of people listening for hours on end, surprises can be handful. Bushiri also launched Prophetic Codes, The Art and Prophetic Gates and Mysteries Surrounding your Money.
SBP commissioning director Melody Dzingai, Bushiri mostly writes his books over his long flights on foreign trips.
“Going by our theme for the launch, we believe not every leader is a reader. But, every reader is a leader. A man with knowledge is very powerful, since they can question even their leaders,” she said.
Bushiri’s headmaster at Moyale Secondary School in Mzuzu, Louis Ngwira recalls that the prophet never forgot his Bible while in school. He says he was a smart and neat student.
“One day, he was outside their class with other students. He started praying for them and they started crying, taken by the spirit,” recalls Ngwira.
As the impromptu prayers disturbed other leaners, that called for a punishment. “I told him to dig a pit deeper than him. When he was done, I told him to cover up the pit. That was enough punishment for disturbing classes with prayers,” said Ngwira.
Bushiri, who hails from Ntcheu, recalls the incident vividly: “It was a hard punishment coming from a headteacher who was also a soldier. I missed some classes to dig that pit. That was part of the rejection that has always made me strong.”
According to him, negativity has been a Malawian social trend and he has experienced it personally: “I have been accused of causing accidents. When a Malawian gets rich, some accuse them of witchcraft or Satanism. All I know is that there are no charms to success. Hard work is all we need.”
For him, Malawians’ lack of patriotism is a set-off. He says while other countries are proud to carry their national flags, Malawians shy away.
Saying he was influenced by his father, a former Malawi Young Pioneer (MYP) operative believes writers live forever.
“Their works are read by generations. It is from my fatther that I learned so much English. He was [Minister of Homeland Security] Nicholas Dausi’s friend,” said Bushiri, a father or two.
The night also saw in performance poets Yankho Seunda and Hudson Chamasowa, Sambang’oma Dance Troupe, Chijere Band and other soloists. n