Successful extradition of Shepherd Bushiri and his wife could take years – Lawyers warn

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But lawyers with experience in extradition processes say it’s not that easy. On average, it could take up to two years before the couple set foot on South African soil, especially if they are refusing to stand trial here.

Two weeks since fugitives Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, left South Africa, immigration lawyers are warning that the process to successfully extradite the couple could take years.

Bushiri faces five warrants of arrest in South Africa, while Mary has two.

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The Enlightened Christian Gathering Church leader is facing additional warrants for three rape cases. Church members are accusing him of sexual harassment in 2018.

The couple fled to their home country of Malawi earlier in November, violating their bail conditions here where they are accused of fraud, theft and money laundering. The Bushiris’ R5.5 million mansion in Centurion was then forfeited to the state, but this has not deterred them nor dented their pockets while they continue to offer religious services to their legions of fans online.

Just last week, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola made it clear that government was fast-tracking the extradition process to see the fugitives stand trial in South Africa.

"We will continue to finalise the extradition papers, which we intend to send to Malawi within the next two weeks and not within the next 30 days as described by the [Southern African Development Community] protocol," said Lamola at the post-Cabinet media briefing.

But lawyers with experience in extradition processes say it’s not that easy. On average, it could take up to two years before the couple set foot on South African soil, especially if they are refusing to stand trial here.

Vuyo Manisi, managing director at law firm Vuyo Manisi Incorporated, that government was ambitious if it thought the couple would be back here any time soon.

"[Bushiri] is going to make sure it actually doesn't happen. He has the financial resources to appeal every legal setback thrown at him. And he has friends with political connections as well.”

Meanwhile, Gary Eisenberg, an attorney specialising in immigration and extradition, agreed that it could take years before the Bushiris were extradited, as they hold the right to appeal as part of the SADC agreed-to protocol.

"According to Malawian domestic law, they also have extradition legislation. Whatever happens in terms of that inquiry, Bushiri will have the right to appeal."

Last week, South Africa applied for the provisional arrest of the Bushiris in Malawi. But they handed themselves over to Malawian authorities, which is different from them being arrested.

– EWN


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