South Africa has formally applied to the Malawi Government to have Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary extradited to answer charges of alleged fraud and money-laundering.
The extradition request was served on Malawian authorities yesterday through South Africa’s Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services.
In an interview, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala confirmed receiving the extradition request yesterday.
But he said they were yet to serve it on the Bushiris because the request would have to be analysed on all legal requirements, before taking any action.
“The analysis may take several days and we cannot say for certain how long,” said Masanjala.
In a media statement issued yesterday, South Africa’s Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services said the extradition request for the embattled Bushiris was duly served in terms of Article 6 of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Protocol on extradition.
“…as well as Article 10 of the extradition agreement between the Government of Malawi and Republic of South Africa entered in terms of the Republic of South Africa Extradition Act No 67 of 1962 as amended,” reads the statement in part signed by the ministry’s spokesperson Chrispin Phiri.
The law provides for a concerned country to submit an extradition application within 30 days, but the South African Government has served its request within two weeks.
“The submission follows a request for a provisional arrest which was sent through the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) in terms of Article 10 of the Sadc Protocol,” said the statement.
The South African Government said it had noted that the Bushiris had appealed the extradition, but “we are closely monitoring the appeal processes by the Malawian authorities.”
According to the statement, South Africa’s Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Ozzy Lamola said: “Given our sound and healthy diplomatic, strategic and political relationship, and
our common citizenship of the Sadc Community, we are convinced that the Republic of Malawi will honour the letter and spirit of every provision of their international and regional obligations.”
Also known as Major 1, the 37-year-old billionaire prophet and his wife were set to stand trial in a case of alleged fraud and money-laundering of more than R100 million. They both deny the charges.
The two, in a movie-like episode, mysteriously fled from South Africa into Malawi last month and Bushiri argued he felt his life and that of his family were in danger as he had been going through threats since 2018.
Until today, it is not known how the two left South Africa and arrived in Malawi, when their travel documents were still under the custody of law enforcing agencies. They are also yet to explain how they did it.
The Bushiris surrendered themselves to police in Malawi on November 18 and were immediately arrested following a warrant of arrest issued by Interpol following his escape from South Africa.
But the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court declared the arrest of the two as illegal and released them unconditionally.
However, last week, the State challenged the release and wants the court decision to be reversed.
Bushiri founded and leads the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church and owns multiple businesses in South Africa and Malawi, among other countries.
The Bushiri family has since forfeited its R5.5 million (about K269.9 million) property at Midstream Estate in Centurion, South Africa, after they jumped bail at the Pretoria Central Magistrate’s Court.