SA authorities to issue arrest warrants for escaped Prophet Bushiri, wife
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Pretoria – The National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa said it would bring an application in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act for a warrant of arrest for fugitives Shepherd and Mary Bushiri.
NPA spokesperson Lumka Mahanjane said they would also apply for the cancellation of bail for the Enlightened Christian Gathering royalty granted by the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on November 4.
The government also dismissed speculation= the South African-based Malawian couple left the country aboard a flight on which Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera and his delegation travelled.
Phumla Williams, director-general of Government Communication and Information Systems, said Chakwera undertook a successful working visit to South Africa on Friday, during which South Africa and Malawi discussed a broad range of initiatives to strengthen relations between the governments and peoples of the two countries.
“Following the visit, President Chakwera and his delegation departed from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria and stopped over at OR Tambo International Airport to collect an additional number of officials who had travelled to South Africa earlier to prepare for the working visit.
“Department of Home Affairs immigration officials verified the identities of all passengers and Mr and Ms Bushiri were not on the flight.
“When travellers are processed for departure, they are required to present themselves to an immigration officer who, among other checks, verifies that the passport belongs to the traveller,” said Williams.
To ensure that the two fugitives faced justice, South Africa had initiated a process to secure their extradition from Malawi in terms of the SADC Protocol on Extradition and other legal instruments, to which Malawi was a signatory, she said. While this process was under way, law enforcement agencies would continue investigations into this matter, she said.
It emerged on Saturday morning that the self-proclaimed Pretoria prophet – with a huge following across the continent – and his wife had fled to their home country last Wednesday, citing safety concerns.
This was despite their bail conditions prohibiting them from travelling outside the country, pending the outcome of their fraud case.
The pair, along with three co-accused, are facing charges of fraud, theft and money laundering, which reportedly took place between 2017 and 2019, to the tune of more than R106 million.
Bushiri, in a statement, said they were in Malawi temporarily due to security issues dating back to 2015, which had become worse since their release on bail.
He said these were witnessed with their recent arrests and detention. The pair felt the only way to clear their names before the law was by ensuring their lives were preserved.
Bushiri said there had been clear and evident attempts to have his family killed despite several attempts by them to report the matter to the authorities in South Africa.
“Our coming to Malawi is a tactical withdrawal from South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives. As we stand here we were arrested in 2019 on charges of alleged money laundering and it is getting to three years without a trial.”
While waiting for that matter to proceed, they were yet again arrested and kept in custody for over two weeks. “Against this background, we have come to the painful conclusion that what we have faced in South Africa since 2015 is purely persecution and not prosecution. Obviously, there can never be independence and impartiality.”
Bushiri indicated they would be willing to return to South Africa should their requests be met by the government. The couple have asked for their safety to be assured; for the
State not to revoke their bail, and for officers within the investigating team to withdraw from the matter. The reason cited for this was because, as Bushiri indicated, the officers were from the same team he had lodged a complaint against with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) before the spate of arrests began. Ipid confirmed the complaint, but said Bushiri had not been co-operative.
Following their arrest, the Bushiris were ordered to hand over all their travel documents to the authorities, along with the title deed of their property in Midstream worth R5.5m.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said Bushiri and his wife were required to report at a police station as part of their bail conditions every Monday and Friday. “He did not report at the police station.”
Using his Prophetic Channel, Bushiri told his followers they had not evaded trial. “I am not running away from trial in South Africa. If I wanted to run away I would not have come to Malawi or announced where I am.”