Self-styled prophet Shepherd's 'lover' helped him and his wife reach the Beitbridge border
Self-proclaimed Malawian prophet Shepherd Bushiri allegedly fled South Africa through Zimbabwe with the assistance of his 27-year-old 'lover'.
This is according to a Limpopo-based former member of Bushiri's Enlightened Christian Gathering Church, who says the woman – who had borrowed his own car – allowed Bushiri and his wife to use it to travel to the Beitbridge border post in Musina on November 10.
In an iterview with City Press this week the man said that he was exposing these details because he was fed up with the church leader's shenanigans and deceit, particularly his declaration that he was willing to return and stand trial if his safety was guaranteed.
Bushiri, he added, had been coming up with excuses like demanding that the magistrate in Malawi recuse himself and expecting South African witnesses to travel to Malawi, where he and his wife are currently fighting extradition.
The man requested that he and the woman who borrowed his car for the Bushiri's not be named until they had met with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.
The woman, he added, wanted assurance that she would be protected before revealing her identity.
The congregant backed up his claims about Bushiri's escape with a sworn statement.
Bushiri's South Africa-based lawyer, Ntsako Baloyi, insisted that he did not know how the couple had left the country, as they had not informed him.
It was initially suspected that they escaped with the assistance of Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera on November 14 – a matter that threatened diplomatic ties between that country and South Africa.
Chakwera had been in South Africa to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa around the time the Bushiri's disappeared in the face of mounting fraud and money laundering charges involving R102 million.
They had been released on R200 000 bail each by the Pretoria Central Magistrates' Court soon before their escape.
The couple are standing trial in a court in Malawi's capital city Lilongwe. They are scheduled to appear again tomorrow.
The 'prophet' is also facing eight counts of rape dating back to 2016, with some of his alleged victims being as young as 16.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale declined to comment on whether the Hawks were aware of this version of how the Bushiris escaped, saying only that the matter was still under investigation.
LOVER USED HER FRIEND'S VEHICLE
In his affidavit, the former member of Bushiri's church alleged that he had lent a white car to Bushiri's alleged lover when the "prophet" called her and asked for assistance on November 9."Bushiri asked the woman if she had a car in good condition for a long-distance trip and told her to ask me to lend her one if she didn't. She happened to be using my car at that time, as her own had mechanical problems," he said.
Bushiri's wife, he alleged, was driven by another person to the woman's apartment in Embassy Towers in Sandhurst, Johannesburg, between 11am and noon on November 10 and they then drove to Carlswald in Midrand, which is where Bushiri was.
From there, the couple set off for the Malawi border post at about 2pm, accompanied by another woman. The Bushiri's, he said, were wearing baseball caps to disguise themselves.
He alleged the lover was given strict instructions not to tell anyone about this trip, but to misdirect people by calling all her friends and acquaintances and telling them she had accompanied Mary Bushiri to Sun City, and then leave her cellphone at home to avoid taking their calls.
He himself, the man said, had been unaware of what had really happened.
"She called me at about 1pm [on November 10] and told me about taking Mom [Mary Bushiri] to Sun City," he said.
In the affidavit, he said: "When she called me, she sounded as if she was in a hurry and when I tried to call her back 30 minutes later, her phone wasn't answered."
The congregant alleged he was at his home in Limpopo when the Bushiri's skipped the country.
"She [later] told me that she only realised there were four vehicles as part of the Bushiri entourage, which drove ahead of them to check for roadblocks and police presence on the road when they arrived in Polokwane. They all booked into a lodge in Musina and, at about 1.30am the next morning, they were called into the Bushiris' room. That was when the couple bid them goodbye. The Bushiri's were then fetched by another car and left for Malawi at about 2am, presumably through Beitbridge," he said.
The woman offered the Bushiri's R20 000 in cash.
Zimbabwean police spokesperson, chief superintendent Paul Nyathi, said that the country's police did not have any information about the Bushiri's passing through their borders.
HE LEFT HIS SUIT AT HIS LOVER'S HOUSE
By mid-morning on November 11, following the Bushiris' departure, the lover allegedly used the cellphone of her companion to contact the congregant via the Telegram app to ask for directions to his house in Louis Trichardt.
The same day that the prophet came out of prison, he started losing serious weight and when he was admitted to hospital here in South Africa, they told him he had poison in his blood.
That was when she told him the whole story. "When she told me that Mary's phone had been left at her house, I told her to remove it as soon as possible because anyone could trace it. We went together to her house [in Sandton] and only when I saw Mary's cellphone did I believe her story," he said.
"She phoned Sylvester [one of Bushiri's members of protocol] to come and take the phone and she handed it to him. I informed her of the seriousness of her actions in helping the Bushiri's to escape," he said.
"She later confided to me that she had helped them escape because she'd been having a sexual relationship with Shepherd Bushiri for almost two years. She confirmed it by showing me a double-breasted suit, a yellow tie, a white shirt and blue Boss underwear that Bushiri had left at her place after spending a night there," he said.