AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
SELF-PROCLAIMED prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary are now officially fugitives from the law after warrants of arrests were issued against them for violating their bail conditions.
The couple, who fled South Africa and are now in Malawi, also had their bail of R200 000 each revoked by the Pretoria Magistrates Court. They are on trial with three other accused where they face fraud and money laundering charges in connection with a 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.
Williams said Chakwera undertook a successful working visit to South Africa on Friday,during which South Africa and Malawi discussed a broad range of initiatives to strengthen relations between the governments and peoples of the two countries.
“Following the visit, President Chakwera and his delegation departed from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria and stopped over at OR Tambo International Airport to collect an additional number of officials who had travelled to South Africa earlier to prepare for the working visit.
“Department of Home Affairs immigration officials verified the identities of all passengers and Mr and Ms Bushiri were not on the flight. When travellers are processed for departure, they are required to present themselves to an immigration officer who, among other checks, verifies that the passport belongs to the traveller,” Williams said.
Bushiris are each out on R200 000 bail. During their 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 terms of their bail conditions, the Bushiris are not permitted to travel outside the Gauteng and North West provinces.
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.
Magistrate Thandi Theledi warned the accused that their bail would be revoked should they violate the strict bail conditions.
Theledi laid down the following conditions.
- They have to report to the nearest police station twice a week.
- They cannot travel outside South Africa.
- They cannot use their sermons to intimidate witnesses.
- They cannot apply for travel documents.
- They have to hand over the original title deed of a property jointly owned by them as a guarantee.
- They cannot dispose of the property linked to the bail until the case is finalised.
- They cannot directly or indirectly intimidate witnesses