AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
THE bid for freedom by Shepherd Bushiri, one of Africa’s influential and rich religious leaders and his wife has failed and the couple has to spend the second weekend in a South African jail, following their arrest on fraud and money laundering charges.
Bushiri, his wife Mary, Willah and Zethu Mudolo appeared in Pretoria Magistrates Court on Friday where their bail application was rescheduled to Monday to give the state time to formulate heads of arguments. The postponement angered hundreds of Bushiri supporters who gathered outside court.
Before the postponement, the court heard arguments from the state, which opposed bail, that Bushiri, who has several passports, including a Malawian diplomatic passport, was a flight risk.
In an affidavit before court, Bushiri – a Malawian citizen with permanent residence in South Africa – said he planned to plead not guilty to charges against him and said he was not a flight risk. He expressed concern for his minor children, who are in South Africa at the moment but live and attend school in Malawi.
Bushiri (37), head of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) and the self-proclaimed “prophet’, was arrested together with his wife Mary (39) in connection with a R102-million fraud, theft and money laundering case. The wife was arrested at their Sandton home while Bushiri, who is suspected of attempting to evade arrest, handed himself over at the Silverton Police station.
The arrest of the Bushiris follows the arraignment on Saturday of another couple – Willah and Zethu Mudolo – in connection with the same case. The Mudolos have also applied for bail.
Bushiri’s church has claimed that the Hawks, South Africa’s elite serious crimes investigations unit, arrested him and his wife before a scheduled appointment.
“The Hawks informed lawyers of our leaders, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and Prophetess Mary Bushiri, late Monday afternoon that they (Hawks) are requesting the couple to go to their offices by 11am (on Tuesday) accompanied by their lawyers to discuss an issue concerning a certain investment, pertaining to a certain company called Rising Estate. We are told that as the prophet and lawyers were getting prepared for the 11am appointment, the Hawks went to their house before the 11am appointment and arrested the prophet’s wife alone,” the ECG said in a statement.
The church said Bushiri had confidence in the South African justice system and would abide by the law.
This is not the Bushiris’ first brush with the law. In a separate matter, the couple was arrested on February 1 and recently appeared in court, where they are charged with fraud and money laundering involving R15-million. The trial on this matter is expected to run from May 31 and June 18.
The leader of the ECG church and his wife were at the time released on R100,000 bail each by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court. Their case was transferred to the high court.
The couple are also accused of contravening South Africa’s exchange control regulations by paying about R19 million for a private jet.