The Lilongwe Magistrate's Court in Malawi has dismissed a State application for South Africa-based witnesses to testify virtually in the extradition hearing of self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary, local media reported on Tuesday.
Magistrate Patrick Chirwa said the court had no legal powers to make orders outside its own jurisdiction, according to Rainbow Television Malawi.
News website Malawi Voice quoted Chirwa as saying the reasons advanced by the State in the application were merely speculative.
Chirwa last month ordered that witnesses from South Africa should come and physically testify under oath in Malawi.
Citing the Covid-19 pandemic among other reasons, the State had applied for the witnesses to testify from South Africa, via video technology.
Bushiri’s lawyers opposed the application, saying it lacked legal basis.
Radio station Capital FM Malawi quoted the director of public prosecutions Steven Kayuni, as telling the court that he would need a month and two weeks to have the 10 witnesses fly to Malawi from South Africa.
The charismatics preacher and his wife are wanted in South Africa on fraud and money laundering charges relating to an investment scheme valued at over R100 million.
The Enlightened Christian Gathering 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 after their arrest in October.
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 owns a hotel in Rustenburg in North West.
They handed themselves to the police in Malawi 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 Lilongwe to send back the Bushiris to stand trial on charges of theft, fraud, forgery and failing to comply with bail conditions in South Africa.
African News Agency (ANA)