Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary walked to unconditional freedom yesterday after the Lilongwe Principal Resident Magistrate’s Court declared as unlawful their arrest by Malawi Police.
Delivering judgement on an initial application by lawyer Wapona Kita representing the Bushiris, principal resident magistrate Viva Nyimba ordered the immediate release of the couple who last week jumped bail in South Africa where they were charged with fraud and money laundering.
The magistrate said the arrest of the Bushiris, who had handed themselves to police at National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe on Wednesday following an arrest warrant purportedly from International Police (Interpol) should have originated from the court or with authority from Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda.
“There was no warrant of arrest from court or authority from Minister of Homeland Security to necessitate the arrest. Although the State says the police acted on what was required of them, the arrest was illegal,” Nyimba said.
I n r e l e a s i n g t h e two, the magistrate much as there are strong bilateral relations between Malawi and South Africa, the court would act independently and decide on the matter based on law, including how arrests are effected.
Nyimba avoided dwelling on wha t happened in South Africa, saying that was an issue for another time.
He stressed that the release of the Bushiris was based on the fact that their arrest flouted procedures.
The magistrate also dismissed submissions by the State that the Bushiris would not honour legal proceedings if released, saying the fact that they voluntarily surrendered themselves to the police demonstrated that they would comply with further obligations.
The State had asked the court to extend the detention of the Bushiris until South Africa made a formal request for their extradition.
State lawyer Steve Kayuni argued that since the Bushiris jumped bail in South Africa, there was a risk they would do the same in Malawi if not pleased with the conditions.
He said: “We pray that the court should make the order for remand for 30 days until the South African Government makes a formal request forth eprocess of extradition.”
But Kita objected to further detention, arguing that the two were being held illegally as there was no warrant of arrest or authority from Minister of Homeland Security.
There was jubilation inside and outside the courtroom after the two were released unconditionally.
S p e a k i n g i n a n interview, Bushiri said he was relieved by the ruling and trusted the justice system in Malawi.
On what he makes about his property being siezed in South Africa for violating bail conditions, he said he did not care about losing property as long as he was in an environment where his family was safe.
Bushiri lamented that he tried to fight for justice in South Africa, but allegedly failed as he became a victm; hence, his escape to Malawi.
He said: “Some police officers in South Africa were trying to blackmailme so that I give them money. They said if I don’t give them money, they will open cases against me or kill me. were trying to blackmail
“I reported the matter to authorities for redress and same officers pounced on me. I tried to fight for justice but to no avail. Instead I was getting death threats and attempts were made to kill me.”
The Bushiris alongside two others—Willah Mudolo and Zethu Mudolo—were arrested by member s of the Hawks, South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigations, for their alleged involvement in fraud and money laundering of R102 million (about K4.6 billion). The Bushiris were released on R200 000 bail bonds (about K10 million each).