Pretoria - The Black First Land First (BLF) on Tuesday said it was evident that fugitive Malawian charismatic preacher, self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri will not get a fair trial in South Africa as he is being “persecuted”.
“It is clear to all fair-minded people that the South African government has waged a vendetta against Prophet Bushiri. The government of South Africa is not interested in the rule of law. It’s interested in tarnishing the name of the prophet,” said BLF president Andile Mngxitama, a former member of Parliament.
It emerged on Monday that three additional warrants of arrest, for different rape charges registered with the South African Police Service in 2018 and another one registered in 2020, have been issued against Bushiri by South African authorities.
In August, Bushiri’s accusers were interviewed by television news channel eNCA. The women, whose identities were hidden, claimed that they were congregants at the time they were made to meet Bushiri and were raped at a Pretoria hotel.
On the other hand, Bushiri has maintained that the women were trying to extort money from him. He said several police officers were also in on the extortion.
Mngxitama said the charges against Major 1, as Bushiri is affectionately called by his followers, are “manufactured”.
“The latest media driven negative propaganda against Major 1 is a desperate attempt to remove focus from the clear and legal demands made by Prophet Bushiri to come and answer the charges against him. It’s clear that the South African government has no case against the prophet, hence the manufacturing of charges and feeding the media frenzy in an attempt to conduct a trial by media,” said Mngxitama.
“It’s clear that prophet Bushiri shall never receive a fair trial in South Africa under the Ramaphosa administration. Stellenbosch is threatened by the prophet hence the persecution we see. Black First Land First (BLF) calls on the South African government to stop the persecution of Prophet Bushiri and meet his demands to ensure his right to a fair trial and to safety.”
Bushiri and his wife Mary, who were both on bail for charges including fraud and money laundering, fled South Africa and returned to Malawi earlier this month.
The escape causes friction between Pretoria and Lilongwe, as speculation became rife that the Bushiris had been smuggled out of South Africa in Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera’s presidential jet. Chakwera was in South Africa for a working visit.
The Hawks delayed Chakwera's departure, after talks in Pretoria with President Cyril Ramaphosa, to search the presidential plane and scrutinise the identity of all passengers, according to Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Hours after the minister revealed this, Bushiri and his wife handed themselves to Malawian police and were later released by a court in Lilongwe.
On Monday, Bushiri said the additional warrants of arrest issued on charges of rape were part of a conspiracy against him.
“I am neither shocked nor surprised with media reported warrants of arrest because they are just part of the larger crusade to try and persecute my name in the media by a team of same white police officers notably from the Hawks,” said Bushiri, leader of the popular Enlightened Christian Gathering church.
“For the record, it is trite that when a warrant of arrest is issued, law-enforcement agencies proceed to effect arrest; not leaking information to the media as my case has always been with these white police officers.”
The clergyman vehemently denied the rape allegations.
African News Agency (ANA)