Monday 16 November 2020


 Both the South African and Malawian governments have denied that Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera gave fraud-accused pastor Shepherd Bushiri a lift home on his Air Malawi flight on Friday night, with the story about his escape from South Africa gradually appearing to have been a lot more complicated than this. Initial speculation had it that the delay of almost seven hours — causing the flight to land back in Lilongwe after midnight — was because Bushiri was on board and the paperwork had to be sorted out.

Sources who were at Waterkloof on Friday told the Daily Maverick that Chakwera’s foreign minister, Eisenhower Mkaka, caused a scene when he was not allowed to board the plane at Waterkloof. Mkaka was part of Chakwera’s advance mission, which meant he arrived in South Africa earlier than the Malawian president, who arrived on Thursday and disembarked at OR Tambo International Airport.

According to law, only the 17 members of Chakwera’s delegation who had disembarked at Waterkloof were allowed to fly from there again. When Chakwera wanted to leave on Friday, there were 65 members in his delegation in total, but the South Africans stood firm on the law.

“He was literally spitting fire, as if he was planning something that didn’t work out,” an official said of Mkaka. Mkaka was eventually forced to go to OR Tambo with the rest of the delegation to embark from there, causing a massive delay. 

The flight path, which saw the plane take off from Waterkloof Air Force Base and land at OR Tambo, had planespotters speculating that there might have been some kind of repeat of the Gupta plane landing in 2013, when the national keypoint was illegally used to receive rich private individuals in the country. Presidential press secretary Brian Banda posted a short statement on Facebook saying the flight had been delayed “due to clerical glitches in the travel arrangements for Malawi State Officials who had travelled to South Africa ahead of the President’s arrival”.

Lawyers associated with the self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering church, Shepherd Bushiri — who fled SA with his wife Mary — are in the dark after the couple's violation of strict bail conditions. 

The duo were released on R200,000 bail each by the Pretoria Commercial Crime Court less than a month ago. They are facing charges of theft, money laundering and fraud in connection with an alleged R102m “investment scheme”.

During their bail application, their legal team argued the pair was not a flight risk despite strong links with Malawi. It has emerged that the couple fled the country for Malawi after failing to report to their local police station on Friday in terms of their bail conditions.

According to reports, speculation is rife that the couple's escape is linked to the visit to the country by Malawian president Lazarus Chakwera on Thursday.

Speaking in a televised address beamed by privately-owned television station Zodiak Broadcasting, on Saturday evening, Bushiri said he was in his home country to formally ask the Malawian government to intervene in his court battles in SA.

He argued that the prospects of a fair trial were minimal because of the colour of his skin. “The investigation [team] is made of five white police officers, the judge is white and a white prosecutor. As a black man in SA I will not have a fair trial,” he said.

“I arrived in Malawi on Wednesday, and my president [Lazarus Chakwera] left for SA the following day [Thursday] I have not met my government. I have not spoken to any government official. I will meet my government on Monday.”

Bushiri said he was not running away from his trial but that he wants to involve the government of his homeland about his concerns surrounding his criminal cases in SA.

He said his SA-based lawyers would on Monday file papers in the high court for his bail not to be revoked.

However, the lawyers, who asked not to be identified, could not confirm this. They were also not willing to comment on any legal relationship with Bushiri going forward. One of the lawyers, said the team remained in the dark.

“We do not know anything as the lawyers. We have a professional relationship which we can't comment about in the media ...” 

The Bushiri's bail conditions included:   

having to report to their nearest police station every Monday and Friday;

being barred from disposing of any property;

handing over to the state the original title deed to their property in Midstream Estate, Centurion, to the value of R5.5m; and

being barred from travel outside the borders of SA and other provinces, except Gauteng and the North West.

The conditions also barred them from threatening witnesses or the investigation and prosecution teams — even while preaching.

Bushiri's move has reportedly left President Cyril Ramaphosa “extremely angry” and law enforcement agencies red-faced. An Interpol Red Alert has been activated for Bushiri as a result.






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