Pastor’s escape strains SA’s relations with Malawi

A self-styled Malawian prophet who claims to have raised people from the dead has sparked a diplomatic incident after fleeing criminal charges in South Africa.

Shepherd Bushiri and his wife were arrested on fraud and money laundering charges and appeared in court last month for alleged financial misdeeds amounting to R102 million ($6.6 million). They were granted bail of R200,000 each on November 4 and handed in their passports so they couldn’t leave the country, but Bushiri issued a statement 10 days later saying the couple were in Malawi.


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Their escape coincided with a working visit by Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera to South Africa, raising suspicions that his delegation had helped the pair.

While South African authorities said they’d established the couple didn’t travel on Chakwera’s flight home on November 13, the Malawian government complained in a statement on Twitter that its president had been improperly treated. Difficult extradition negotiations lie ahead.

Police thoroughly searched the aircraft used by Malawian president Lazarus Chakwera before it left SA to ensure that prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary were not inside.…

“To ensure that 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 Protocol on Extradition and other legal instruments, to which Malawi is a signatory,” the South African government said in an emailed statement.

South Africa’s law-enforcement agencies are still investigating how the Bushiris got to Malawi. Bushiri has said the couple wasn’t safe in South Africa and he wants the Malawian government to intervene on their behalf.

The Bushiris had obtained permits to permanently reside in South Africa, but they were irregularly issued and needed to be revoked, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told lawmakers on Tuesday. The justice and security ministries have ordered a comprehensive report on the matter and will submit it to parliament, he said.

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