In a movie-like episode, embattled charismatic Prophet Shepherd Bushiri yesterday announced his arrival in Malawi following his escape from South Africa, prompting a flurry of drama, threats and intrigue in both countries.
Bushiri, who is facing multiple separate charges of fraud in South Africa and is on bail whose conditions included restriction of movement in South Africa and let alone across the borders, disclosed his great escape through social media.
Pictures emerged of the leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering in Lilongwe, but there was no news on the whereabouts of his wife Mary and fellow accused person.
The coincidence of the news, announced Saturday morning following President Lazarus Chakwera’s return from South Africa on Friday night, where his plane was delayed for hours, prompted speculation, now dismissed, on whether the Malawi government had aided the great escape.
Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda yesterday said the government will consult the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on the way forward, including possible extradition of the Bushiris.
Said Banda: “We will consult the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on the matter. There are rumours that he came with the President, but we would like to categorically say that he didn’t come with the President nor was he aided by government in any way. We have noted the rumours. Within a day, we will find which port of entry he used or how he entered the country. We are investigating.”
In a tweet yesterday afternoon, South Africa’s Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola threatened to commence an extradition request. Lamola said Malawi is “signatory of the Sadc protocol and other legal instruments on extraditions.
“We will not hesitate to invoke these provisions and instruments to assist law enforcement agencies to extradite fugitives of justice.”
Chakwera’s press team immediately dismissed any fears Bushiri was offered a ride on the President’s plane.
“The allegation that Prophet Shepherd Bushiri came on the same flight with the President is false,” press secretary Brian Banda told Nation on Sunday.
Spokesperson for South Africa’s presidency, Tyrone Seale, yesterday declined to comment.
Malawi Immigration Department spokesperson Joseph Chauwa asked for more time for a comment, but Nation on Sunday
sources at Kamuzu International Airport, the main international travel hub, told the paper, the embattled preacher did not use the airport.
Bushiri, in a late night TV address yesterday monitored on Zodiak, did not explain how he made it to Malawi considering that the court in South Africa ordered him, his wife and other co-accused persons to surrender their travel document.
Bushiri said he felt his life and that of his family was in danger as he had been going through threats since 2018.
He called on Malawi government to intervene on the matter, pleading with the South African court not to revoke his bail as he was back home on safety reasons.
He said he sent back his little children back to Malawi in 2018 when he feared for the safety of his family.
Bushiri, who did not explain how he made it to Malawi when the court had asked him and his wife to surrender travel documents, said he first reported police officers who arrested him regarding extortion attempts on him, but was surprised that the same people he reported were the ones that arrested him.
He wondered, how, in those circumstances, can he could face a fair trial.
“They arrested me over buying a private jet, arrested me on money laundering. They are still holding my private jet. They later changed the money laundering charge to contravention of foreign exchange regulations, being a foreigner, this charge did not apply on me.
“I would expect to have the people I opened case against to recuse themselves from the case. I am subjected to unfair investigation, which is not legal. I told my legal team that I wanted to be heard by the Constitutional Court, but I was not given a chance,” Bushiri said.
In October this year, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) arrested Bushiri and his wife Mary over alleged a R100 million fraud case and in a statement yesterday the Hawks spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale said the unit is investigating the escape.
“There are unconfirmedreports that Prophet Bushiri and his wife have absconded from SA which is in contravention of their bail conditions as set in the Pretoria magistrate’s court.
“At this stage, we can confirm that he did not report at the police station as requested and agreed upon which is also an act of contravention of [the] court order.
“Investigators, together with prosecutors have been working tirelessly since it came to light that he did not report at the police station.
The current posts purporting to be issued by Bushiri, who is said to be in Malawi, are being authenticated and verified.”
She said an investigation into Bushiri’s failure to comply with his bail conditions were underway.
Reads the statement by Bushiri issued earlier: “There have been clear and evident attempts to have myself, my wife and my family killed and despite our several attempts to report to 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