By Jorge Joaquim
A diplomatic storm is brewing between SA and Malawi after Pastor Shepherd Bushiri absconded this week – at about the same time that Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera jetted into SA for a brief meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Some social media outlets have been setting the narrative that Bushiri, leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church who has returned home in Malawi contravening his bail conditions was offered a ride on the President’s plane together with his wife, Mary.
Malawi’s Nyasa Times reported that the State House Press Secretary, Brian Banda, on Saturday afternoon described the allegations as false.
He also said Chakwera and his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, did not discuss the issue of Bushiri during their meeting in Pretoria on Friday.
“The topics of discussion between President Lazarus Chakwera, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and their delegations were highlighted by the two leaders during their joint press briefing,” Banda said.
Bushiri was scheduled to address the media on Saturday afternoon. The media briefing has since been postponed.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola has said they will seek an extradition process for Bushiri.
“Malawi is a signatory of the SADC protocol and other legal instruments on extraditions. We will not hesitate to invoke these provisions and instruments to assist law enforcement agencies to extradite fugitives of justice,” Lamola tweeted on Saturday.
But Bushiri said he and his wife “temporarily” left for Malawi due to safety concerns.
“There have been clear and evident attempts to have myself, my wife and my family killed and despite our several attempts to report to authorities, there has never been state protection,” Bushiri said.
The preacher claimed that he and his wife were being persecuted in South Africa.
The couple was arrested in October on charges of fraud, money laundering and theft worth more than R102 million. They were granted R200 000 bail each last week.