AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
MOMENTS after he and his wife were freed by a court in Malawi, self-styled ‘prophet’ Shepherd Bushiri said his freedom meant that “justice was about to prevail”.
Bushiri told the media and his supporters. “I am so excited but I give all the glory to God. This is not a victory of me. It is not a victory of my lawyers. It is a victory of God. All the glory and praise be to God. We believe that justice is about to prevail.”
A court in Malawi freed Bushiri and his wife, Mary, after declaring their arrest illegal.
Magistrate Viva Nyimba ruled that the Bushiris could not be arrested on the strength of warrants issued in South Africa.
Nyimba said the couple could only be held on the basis of a warrant of arrest issued by the Malawian law enforcement authorities.
The couple were freed on the day that their R5.5-million property in Centurion, Pretoria property was forfeited to the State after they skipped bail and fled to Malawi. Reacting to the forfeiture, Bushiri said his life was more important that the property. “My life is more important than any asset in the world,” he said.
The property at Midstream Estates, was attached as part of the bail conditions for Bushiri and his wife, Mary. The property was forfeited after they failed to present themselves at the Pretoria magistrate’s court as instructed in their bail conditions. The couple has also lost their joint R400 000 bail. They are now fugitives from the law after two warrants of arrest were issued against them.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised that action will be taken after the country suffered a national security embarrassment with the escape of the Bushiris.
The Bushiris, on trial for fraud and money laundering, skipped bail, escaped to and are in custody in Malawi.
Ramaphosa said he was waiting for a full report on the matter and promised that action will be taken.
In an interview with ENCA TV station, Ramaphosa said: “The Bushiri matter has been very concerning to all of us. I am waiting for a detailed report on the whole Bushiri saga, which I will get and we will then see what action needs to be taken, because it should never have happened the way that it did. Either tomorrow ro so, I will be getting a report. We are going to take action, that’s for sure.”
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, was summoned to parliament to explain to MPs the circumstances surrounding the escape of the Bushiris, who are leaders of the Enlightened Christian Gathering.
The Bushiri have handed themselves over to the police in Malawi, who were looking for them, on the strength of two warrants of arrest issued by the South African courts.
They have spent their first night in a Malawian jail and are expected to appear in court soon to apply for bail.
In South Africa, the Bushiris have had their bail of R400 000 revoked by the Pretoria Magistrates Court and face losing their multi-million property in Centurion. They are on trial with three other accused where they face fraud and money laundering charges in connection with an R20-million Ponzi scheme.
The South African government was forced to issue an assurance that the Bushiris were not smuggled out of South Africa by the President of Malawi who left the country on the same day the couple fled.
There were suggestions on social media that Bushiri was smuggled as part of the delegation that accompanied Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera on a working visit to SA. This was heightened by reports that Chakwera’s delegation was delayed before departure, because of “immigration issues” with some members of the delegation.
South African government spokesperson Phumla Williams said the state was, after investigations, able to confirm that the Bushiris did not leave SA with Chakwera or his delegation.
Williams also confirmed that SA has started a process, in terms of the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Extradition and other legal instruments, to extradite the couple from Malawi.
She said while the process was underway, law-enforcement agencies would continue investigations into the matter.
The treatment of the President of Malawi and his delegation led to a letter of protest from Lilongwe. In a statement, the Chakwera’s government expressed unhappiness at the manner in which he and the delegation were treated by South African law enforcement agencies.
In a social media post from Malawi on Wednesday, Bushiri said a presentation by Motsoaledi in Parliament, on their case, was proof that they would not get a fair trial in SA.
Bushir said: “In his preliminary report, the Minister took the Committee through the process that his department employs to keep track of movement of the people entering and leaving South Africa. He also went into the process that is followed within his department when permits are issued.
“Unfortunately, during the said briefing, the Minister went into the merits of our pending criminal trial as well as the existing internal processes within his ministry in which he is the appeals authority. This is one of the processes that my wife and I should follow during the process that has been interdicted by the High Court in South Africa, which the Minister also indicated that he was disappointed when our rights were protected by the Court.
“The Minister further went on to state that our Permanent Residence permits are irregular and therefore our stay in South Africa is unlawful because (1) My wife and I misrepresented facts to induce his department to issue the permits and (2) his department-issued incorrect permits to us due to their oversight. Therefore, his department has decided to revoke our permits.
“This is but one of the many injustices that I feared would befall me and my wife. This internal process is already prejudged by the Minister before I submit my representations on why our permits should not be revoked because we did nothing wrong.
“The Minister went on to state that my wife and I hold five different passports each. The impression is that these are passports with different names and details. Once again, this issue is before the High Court in South Africa. This statement by the Minister further strengthen my fear that I will not get a fair trial in South Africa.
“For the record, my wife and I have 5 passports each, one of which is a diplomatic passport and one is a normal passport. We submitted all these passports to the Investigating Officer in South Africa. Because we are frequent travellers due to the work of our ministry, the other passports are full, however, they have international visas and hence we kept them. There is nothing sinister about that. Even the Immigration Department in Malawi has attested to that.”