The State has challenged the unconditional release of Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary who jumped bail and fled South Africa amid multiple charges against them.
Speaking in an interview on Wednesday, Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala said the State wants the decision to release the couple reversed. The High Court has since set Tuesday as the day of hearing the application.
“We filed this [Wednesday] afternoon. The matter comes on 1 December for review by the High Court of the decision by the PRM [principal resident magistrate],” he said.
In a separate interview also on Wednesday, Wapona Kita, one of the lawyers representing the Bushiris, confirmed being served with a notice for the case.
However, he said the State was yet to make full disclosures on the matter.
Said Kita: “We cannot start replying until we get all disclosures on the matter. We have only received partial documents. We are waiting for the rest.”
The Bushiris handed themselves to National Police Headquarters at Area 30 in Lilongwe on November 18 2020 after learning that they were wanted by police who had a warrant of arrest from International Police (Interpol) Pretoria office.
South Africa wants the couple extradited to answer charges of fraud and money laundering. The government also issued a fresh warrant for the Bushiris after they jumped bail. Three other warrants of arrest for Bushiri were also subsequently issued for alleged rape.
The mysterious escape of the Bushiris has caused tension between Malawi and South Africa after some sections of South African media and Cabinet ministers alleged that President Lazarus Chakwera, who had a two-day working visit to South Africa the week Bushiri escaped, purportedly had a hand.
However, the South African Government later clarified that Chakwera’s presidential aircraft, which was vigorously searched at Waterkloof Airbase in Pretoria and delayed for over seven hours, did not have the Bushiris on board.
It later transpired that the Bushiris entered Malawi two days before the President left for South Africa on November 12.
The Bushiris, who were released on a R200 000 bail, faces fraud charges involving K4.6 billion (R102 million) in a case they were arrested by the South African special crimes unit, known as the Hawks.
They deny any wrong doing and described their escape as “tactical withdrawal” necessitated by safety concerns amid alleged threats on their life. They also accuse Hawks officers, of targeting them after failed extortion attempts.
Bushiri, who is also known as “Major 1” and his wife were also arrested in February 2019 and face separate charges of fraud, money laundering and the contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) for offences they allegedly committed from 2015.