Bushiri rape accuser insists she will not travel to testify in Malawi

A man and woman sitting before a microphone

Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader Shepherd Bushiri, seated next to his wife, Mary, at the CRL Rights Commission. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 15, 2022


Pretoria – The family of one of the women who made rape allegations against charismatic Malawian preacher and self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri has vowed that she will not travel to Lilongwe, even if the court in that country insists she has to testify in the ongoing extradition hearing.

The woman’s name has been withheld to protect her.

The high court in Malawi last week ruled that presiding magistrate in the lower court, Patrick Chirwa, has the discretion to decide on whether the alleged victims, who are witnesses in the extradition hearing, should come to Lilongwe or consider other options, including testifying online.

Before the matter went to the high court, Chirwa had ruled in June that the South African witnesses should make themselves available, physically, before his court in Malawi to present their depositions. Chirwa dismissed a State application for the South Africa-based witnesses to testify virtually in the extradition hearing.

However, the Mpumalanga family of one of the women who alleges Bushiri raped her when she was a minor told broadcaster eNCA that even if the Malawian court insists that the South African witnesses must come to Malawi, she would not travel.

The family said Bushiri “is a dangerous man” and the accusers would not be safe in Malawi.

“I do not think it will ever happen (her travelling to Malawi). This issue happened here in South Africa, so how can we just follow Bushiri wherever he is while he has to be here and face his charges,” said the mother.

“We are not protected … because Bushiri is a dangerous man. I don’t want to lie. He is very dangerous. Me and my husband are tired of this. At times we are thinking of withdrawing the case because it is not going anywhere.”

Apart from the rape allegations, Bushiri and his wife, Mary, are wanted in South Africa on fraud and money-laundering charges relating to an investment scheme valued at more than R100 million.

The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leaders were arrested in South Africa but, after being granted bail, fled to Malawi, claiming they were not safe in their host country.

They were each released on R200 000 bail by the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on November 4, 2020, after their arrest in October that year.

As part of their bail conditions, they had been restricted to only travelling within South Africa’s Gauteng and North West provinces until the case was finalised. The couple own a hotel in Rustenburg in the North West.

After fleeing to Malawi, the couple handed themselves to the police in that country after a warrant of arrest was issued by Interpol.

Lilongwe magistrate Viva Nyimba, however, released them unconditionally, stating that their arrest in Malawi was unlawful because there had been no formal request from South Africa. He ruled that the couple could therefore only be summoned to court.

Pretoria has since formally requested that Lilongwe send back the Bushiris to stand trial on charges of theft, fraud, forgery and failing to comply with bail conditions in South Africa.

Through his spokesperson Ephraim Nyondo, Bushiri has insisted that he is willing to return to South Africa to face justice when there is a guarantee of his safety.

Thousands of ECG members in South Africa have reportedly resorted to following Bushiri and regularly attend services after shuttling between South Africa and Malawi.


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