Diplomatic tiff develops between Malawi and South Africa over treatment of President

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

A diplomatic row has erupted between South Africa and Malawi over the treatment of President Lazarus Chakwera after a working visit to his southern African neighbour.

In an unusual step, the Malawian government issued a statement, decrying how Chakwera and his delegation were ill-treated by South Africa. 

The statement came on the day that the Malawian government confirmed that self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife who skipped bail and fled to Malawi, arrived in that country on Wednesday, two days before Chakwera’s arrival in SA.

The Malawi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Chakwera’s return to Malawi was delayed for seven hours because the South African authorities had refused to allow Chakwera’s advance team to travel back with him.

“The South African authorities’ inexplicable refusal to let Malawi’s President leave with his advance team came despite being informed of the arrangement in advance, in conformity to a similar arrangement made in all the countries President Chakwera has visited thus far. Dissatisfied with the vague security reasons given for the refusal, the President decided that he would not travel back to Malawi without his advance team.

“In the impasse that followed, the Malawi delegation proposed to the South African authorities that only President Chakwera and his delegation should leave from Pretoria Waterkloof Military Airbase where their plane had landed, while the advance team should be picked up en route from OR Tambo International Airport. For no apparent reason, the SA authorities rejected this proposal as well. The Malawi delegation then spent the next six hours trying to reason with the SA authorities before the proposal was accepted,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged a statement from the South African government that Bushiri was not smuggled out of the country by the Malawian delegation.

The South African government issued the assurance after it was left red-faced and came under severe criticism for the escape of the leader of Enlightened Christian Gathering and his wife.

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.

The Pretoria Magistrate’s Court has revoked the Bushiris’ bail of R200 000 each and issued warrants of arrest for the couple.

During the Bushiris’ bail application, the state fought vehemently to stop the court from granting them bail. Among the reasons tabled in court were that Bushiri and his wife had established businesses in Malawi and had moved some of their luxurious cars to that country. However, the court, after listening to counter arguments from their lawyers, granted them bail.. 

In a social media post from Malawi, Bushiri claims that he had fled South Africa because they feared for their lives. “There have been clear and evident attempts to myself, my wife and my family and despite our several attempts to report to the authorities, there has never been state protection. Our coming to Malawi, hence, is a tactical withdrawal from the Republic of South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives,” he said.

Bushiris and their co-accused  are facing charges of fraud, theft and money laundering in connection with a ponzi scheme worth R102-million. 

Their co-accused, except one, were also granted bail. Landiwe Ntlokwana was granted bail of R100 000 and Zethu Mudolo is out on bail of R20 000.

 

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