EXTRADITION: HAWKS INVESTIGATING SUSPECTS’ FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE ‘Law enforcement authorities to engage their counterparts in Malawi on this matter through Interpol.’
With prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, now fugitives, South Africa has enlisted the help of Interpol to extradite them from Malawi, with serious questions about how the couple can travel on diplomatic passports.
Like the great Houdini, prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, pulled a trick out of the magic hat and made an embarrassing “great escape” to Malawi, evading the Hawks, home affairs and border control.
The Bushiris are now fugitives only days after being released on bail on 4 November.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said they were investigating the circumstances around the two suspects’ flight from justice.
“South African law enforcement authorities will engage their counterparts in Malawi on this matter through Interpol,” said Mogale.
This was confirmed by government spokesperson Phumla Williams, who said to ensure “the two fugitives face justice, South Africa has initiated a process to secure their extradition from Malawi in terms of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on extradition and other legal instruments, to which Malawi is a signatory”.
“While this process is underway, law enforcement agencies will continue investigations,” Williams said yesterday.
Bushiri is the leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church and along with his wife, and three others stand accused of theft, fraud, and money laundering more than R100 million.
Bushiri’s lawyer Terrance Baloyi was contacted for comment yesterday about the couple’s breaking their bail conditions and skipping the country. “No comment,” Baloyi replied.
I seek my government’s intervention and will communicate with them officially on Monday.
During the Bushiris bail application earlier this month, the state argued that the couple and their co-accused were flight risks due to their multiple passports and not having strong ties to the country.
Magistrate Thandi Theledi, however, granted them bail.
Bushiri and his wife’s bail was fixed at R200 000 respectively, Landiwe Ntlokwana’s bail was set at R100 000, and accused two, who may not be named, was granted bail of R20 000.
The first accused in the case, who also cannot be named, was granted bail on 6 November.
When Thelede granted the Bushiris and their co-accused bail, she clearly told the Bushiris not to leave the country for the duration of the case.
However, the Bushiris did not report to the police station on Friday as per their bail conditions.
On Saturday, Bushiri addressed his followers on his channel and made demands before he could return to South Africa.
“I seek my government’s intervention and will communicate with them officially on Monday (today),” Bushiri said.
He also said the case against him was made by “white people”, referring to the state, the prosecutor, and investigating team, hence he needed help from the government as he feared he would not have a fair trial.
In the time frame the Bushiris fled the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa met with Malawi
President Lazarus Chakwera for a working visit on Friday.
“This working visit is a depiction of the importance of the relations between our two countries. South Africa attaches great importance to maintaining warm and cordial relations with Malawi,” Ramaphosa said.
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola tweeted on Saturday that Malawi was a signatory of the SADC protocol and other legal instruments on extraditions.
“We will not hesitate to invoke these provisions to assist law enforcement agencies to extradite fugitives,” he tweeted.
Parliamentary communications service spokesperson Malatswa Molepo said home affairs authorises who entered and left the country.
“They don’t make sure the borders are secure,” Molepo said.
– The Citizen