Malawi has protested against the treatment South African Government officials gave President Lazarus Chakwera and his delegation upon departure from a working visit leading to a seven-hour delay at the airport.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the President and his delegation were scheduled to leave South Africa at 3.30pm on Friday, depart until 10.30pm due to “security reasons”.
The statement says the Malawi delegation complied with all the security measures out of deference to the concerns of the South African authorities despite the fact that the manner in which they were conducted and the delay caused breached diplomatic protocols commensurate with the dignity of the President’s office.
Reads the statement in part: “The Government of Malawi is aware and grateful that a public statement was recently [on Sunday] issued by the South African Government, exculpating President Chakwera from false allegations dominating the South African media that his presidential plane was used as a conduit for trafficking two Malawians wanted by South African authorities.
“Notwithstanding, the Government of Malawi notes with concern that the statement falls short of acknowledging that the treatment President Chakwera was subjected to upon his departure was improper and incongruous to the warm hospitality he received upon his arrival.”
Chakwera made a two-day official visit to South Africa last week and encountered the unpleasant act when the home-bound departure of the plane was denied permission to fly out by authorities.
Chief among the causes of the delay was South African Government’s refusal to allow Malawi’s advance delegation to travel back home together with Chakwera through Waterkloof Military Airbase in Pretoria. Instead, the delegation was advised to travel to OR Tambo International Airport to board the same flight.
Dissatisfied with the vague security reasons given for the refusal, Chakwera decided not to travel back home without his advance team, according to the statement.
Reads the statement: “In the impasse that followed, the Malawi delegation proposed to the South African authorities that only Chakwera and his delegation should leave from Pretoria Waterkloof Military Airbase where their plane had landed while the advance team should be picked up enroute from OR Tambo International Airport.”
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the South African authorities rejected the proposal and the delegation spent six hours trying to reason with them before they agreed with it.
While South Africa has not officially communicated to the Malawi Government the security reasons, the strict checks apparently emanated from allegations that the presidential plane was being used as a conduit to traffic the under fire self-proclaimed Malawian prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary of the Enlightened Christian Gathering wanted by the South African authorities for alleged fraud and money laundering.
In its statement distancing Chakwera from the Bushiri connection, the South African Government said in a statement that the Malawi leader was not involved in the suspect’s escape from the Rainbow Nation, but Malawi short of acknowledging the bad treatment.Government said it fell
The controversial preacher bolted to his native Malawi last week in controversial circumstances. Until today, it has not been established which South African border post he used to travel to Malawi amid restrictions against his travel as part of bail conditions.
Yesterday, South African Government spokesperson Phumla Williams confirmed that a warrant of arrest has been issued with immediate effect for the Bushiris.
She also confirmed the the warrant of arrest also forms the basis of the documentation that will be submitted to Malawi Government for the extradition of the Bushiris.
Renowned legal analyst Justin Dzonzi said in an interview yesterday he hoped Malawi Government would cooperate with its counterpart in their pursuit to have Bushiri and his wife extradited.
He said as a member of the international community and a constitutional democracy, Malawi respects the rule of law; hence, where a person is suspected of having committed an offence, the country would support the process of going through trial and ensuring everything is taken into account.
Said Dzonzi: “But let me also say there are times when a country might refuse to extradite a person who is running away from done when, among others, there is proof the person will not receive fair trial or if the rules of that country would subject that person to a harsher punishment than he or she would get in the country of residence.” legal proceedings, but that is only
During the Weekly Media Briefing by the State House Press office yesterday, the President said he will not get involved in issues surrounding the Bushiris’ escape from South Africa.
Instead, the President’s executive assistant and State House director of communication Sean Kampondeni said Chakwera has left everything in the hands of law enforcement agencies.
He said: “The President will not be involved, grant meetings to anybody about this issue…
“The South African authorities have made it clear that they are going to seek extradition assistance from the Malawi Government and the government is awaiting such information from their counterparts.”
During the briefing, both Kampondeni and presidential press secretary Brian Banda avoided mentioning Bushiri’s name directly.
While confirming that Chakwera spoke to Ramaphosa over the phone on the seven-hour delay of his plane, Banda refused to give more information.
He said: “They have been speaking on the matter. The South African Government had no problems with President Chakwera. In fact, it was the President who said he would only get to the airport once issues to do with his advance party team were sorted out. He did not want to leave his people behind.”
ECG and Bushiri’s spokesperson Ephraim Nyondo on Sunday and yesterday asked for more time before he could comment.
But in a late night television address on Saturday on privately-owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Bushiri, without mentioning how he exited South Africa, said he felt his life and that of his family was in danger as he was allegedly facing threats since 2018.
He said he wanted Malawi Government officials to intervene on the matter, pleading with the South African court not to revoke his bail as he is back in Malawi for safety reasons. The South African court has since revoked his bail.
Bushiri and his wife alongside two others were arrested by members of the Hawks, the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigations, for their alleged involvement in fraud and money laundering 102 million rand (about K4.6 billion). The other two are Willah Mudolo and Zethu Mudolo.