IN THE early days, through wind and weather and with very little money and fewer congregants, they stood by him as they built the church.

But 10 years later the men who claim to have stood by Prophet Shepherd Bushiri told Daily Sun he’s thrown them out into the cold and punished them for sins they didn’t commit.

In an audio posted on social media last week, Bushiri can be heard saying the pastors secretly created a WhatsApp group in which participants discussed whether he truly was a prophet or not.

Some said he wasn’t because he couldn’t see what happens in secret. He said they attacked the ministry and him personally, causing tension and problems.

He announced they’re dismissed and can no longer serve as pastors of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church.

A number of the axed pastors told the People’s Paper they wanted money to be able to feed their families.

“One pastor said someone sold them out and told Bushiri about the WhatsApp group.

“The agenda of the group was to ask him for money because we’re struggling and running out of food since we’re unable to hold services and the church isn’t paying us salaries,” said the pastor.

He said tithes go to the prophet and they survive on seed money church members contribute, which can be as little as R5.

They were shocked when Bushiri announced their dismissal on 6 May through a video conference meeting. They were sent dismissal letters two days later which Daily Sun has seen.

They were told on Tuesday the church won’t make travel arrangements for their return to Malawi.

Said a second pastor: “We now have to serve under a different ministry or start our own church.

“Rent for houses we live in is paid by the church.

“We can be kicked out at any time.

“We supported him while he was conducting services under a tree.

“We can’t do anything. He has money and power. Even transport we were promised to take us home has been cancelled.”

Said a third pastor: “I’m not bitter, but frustrated that all the years I served under him were in vain. He knows the truth deep down inside.”

Bushiri spokesman Ephraim Nyondo said the church has internal reporting structures where anyone can raise grievances.

“The issue in question is a normal internal case of breach of a set code of conduct and the church administration took the relevant disciplinary action,” he said.

Nyondo said the church does not discuss internal disciplinary matters with the public.

“Prophet Bushiri always prioritises the needs of destitute South Africans over that of his own pastors.”

He said Bushiri was also already running a programme that helps pastors disadvantaged by Covid-19.”