“Prophet” Shepherd Bushiri has amassed a £120 million fortune.

CHARLES MOLELE

FOUR days ago, self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife made a dramatic escape from South Africa, where he was awaiting trial on charges of fraud and money laundering.

Bushiri’s daring escape is likely to cause a major rift and diplomatic spat between Pretoria and Lilongwe, just a day after Dr Lazarus Chakwera met with President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to forge economic partnerships.

Malawi remains one of the most important trading partners for South Africa. 

Inside Politics understands that Ramaphosa is said to be ‘extremely angry’ about the latest developments surrounding the dramatic escape of the Bushiris to Malawi.

At this stage, the Bushiris desperate plan to flee to his childhood home remains shrouded in mystery, but the Hawks told the media that the police only became aware of their escape after they failed to report at a police station on Friday night.

The Pretoria Magistrate’s Court granted bail to Bushiri and three other accused only a week ago.

They are charged with fraud, theft and money laundering in connection with an investment scheme worth R102 million.

Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said on Saturday that investigators and prosecutors were working tirelessly to investigate how Bushiri escaped from South Africa.

“There are unconfirmed reports that Prophet Bushiri and his wife have absconded from South Africa which is in contravention of their bail conditions as set in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court,” Mogale said in a statement.

“At this stage, we can confirm that he did not report at the police station as requested and agreed upon which is also an act of contravention of court order.”

“Investigators together with prosecutors have been working tirelessly since it came to light that he did not report at the police station. The current posts purporting to be issued by Bushiri who is said to be in Malawi are being authenticated and verified.”

Bushiri said in a statement late on Saturday night that he decided to flee South Africa on Wednesday as he feared for his life, and that of his family.

“There have been clear and evident attempts to have myself, my wife and my family killed and there has never been state protection. Our coming to Malawi, hence, is a tactical withdrawal from the Republic of South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives. We have to be alive to testify,” he said.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said 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,” said Lamola.

According to a report by the influential Malawi Voice, before the departure of Malawian President, National Intelligence Bureau sent a planning team of intelligence operatives to South Africa to finalise the escape plan of Bushiri.

Chakwera used a chartered flight to fly directly into Waterkloof Airforce Base, which is a national key-point reserved for South African Military and heads of state.

Waterkloof airport does not conduct the same procedures and searches that are done at the normal airport, especially for the Presidents and their emissaries.

On Wednesday, the 11th of November 2020, before the President of Malawi left Malawi from Kamuzu International Airport (KIA), the Ministry of Transport in Malawi immediately released a statement barring people from entering the airport zone to welcome the president, as is tradition.

In the statement, they claimed that KIA wants to conform with the IATA regulations. Drama took place on Friday night when the Malawian president was supposed to return to Malawi, a day Bushiri did not report to authorities as per his bail conditions.

Instead of Chakwera leaving South Africa at the designated time, he delayed his flight, issuing a statement as a veneer cover of the plot.

The statement reads: “President Chakwera’s departure from South Africa has been delayed several hours due to clerical glitches in travel arrangements for Malawi State Officials who had travelled to South Africa ahead of the president’s arrival. As such, the president elected to wait until every Malawian in his delegation was assisted so that they could all be accounted for upon return.

“Those in the diplomatic circles know very well that the president does not have to wait for a forward planning team. A forward planning team is usually the last to leave the country, following the president. When travelling between South Africa and Malawi, you do not need to do any “clerical” paperwork, except to take out your passport and get it stamped, and you pass.

So the “clerical glitch” that Malawian president refers to here is a lie.

Malawian president’s statement further tells untruth when referring to teams that left before the president as “my delegation”, and wanting them “all accounted for on return”.

While the above statement makes Chakwera look like a caring president, it exposes lies that suggests that Chakwera and his government was covering up something sinister.

It has never been a duty of a president to account for teams accompanying him on state visit.

Who was this official?

Everyone knows that papers of a delegation are always intact before entry into the country of destination. What are these so called clerical papers when we also know that traveling between South Africa and Malawi does not need complicated clerical papers except a passport.

The person Chakwera was waiting for is Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary Bushiri.

Bushiri could have only escaped through three routes, Waterkloof Airforce Base with Chakwera, through OR Tambo International, or any of the international airports, or by roads through the borders.

With COVID-19, and the COVID protocols, it is near impossible for Bushiri to escape via international airports without paperwork, or detection. It will be near impossible to bribe officials between multiple gates of the airport until he gets out of the country without detection.

Through the borders of the national roads, Bushiri has to skip multiple borders to get to Malawi. He will have to bribe officials between the country borders that he will be going through, and that is not an easy feat to achieve.

The only plausible area where he could have been able to leave without much hassle is the Waterkloof Airforce Base, together with the Malawi Presidential delegation.

All that the Malawian president had to do is to bring him into Waterkloof as part of the delegation, and driving him straight through the tarmac to the presidential jet.

What is more telling is how is what happened in Malawi. Again, deviating from tradition of having the media and people to welcome the president when he lands, the president landed after midnight, with no media or anyone to welcome him.

The directive by the minister on Wednesday was already going to make it difficult for anyone to get to the airport tarmac to welcome Chakwera and his delegation.

It is no coincidence that Bushiri issued a statement a day after the night when the presidential jet landed in Malawi

In the statement, they claimed that KIA wants to conform with the IATA regulations.

Drama took place on Friday night when the Malawian president was supposed to return to Malawi, a day Bushiri did not report to authorities as per his bail conditions. Instead of Lazarus Chakwera leaving South Africa at the designated time, he delayed his flight, issuing a statement as a veneer cover of the plot.

The statement reads: “President Chakwera’s departure from South Africa has been delayed several hours due to clerical glitches in travel arrangements for Malawi State Officials who had travelled to South Africa ahead of the president’s arrival. As such, the president elected to wait until every Malawian in his delegation was assisted so that they could all be accounted for upon return.

As the exercise is almost complete, His Excellency and his entourage will be departing anytime tonight.

” Those in the diplomatic circles know very well that the president does not have to wait for a forward planning team. A forward planning team is usually the last to leave the country, following the president. When travelling between South Africa and Malawi, you do not need to do any “clerical” paperwork, except to take out your passport and get it stamped, and you pass. So the “clerical glitch” that Malawian president refers to here is a lie.

Malawian president’s statement further tells untruth when referring to teams that left before the president as “my delegation”, and wanting them “all accounted for on return”.

While the above statement makes Lazarus Chakwera look like a caring president, it exposes lies that suggests that Chakwera and his government was covering up something sinister.

It has never been a duty of a president to account for teams accompanying him on state visit. Who was this official? Everyone knows that papers of a delegation are always intact before entry into the country of destination. What are these so called clerical papers when we also know that traveling between South Africa and Malawi does not need complicated clerical papers except a passport. The person Chakwera was waiting for is Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary Bushiri.

Bushiri could have only escaped through three routes, Waterkloof Airforce Base with Chakwera, through OR Tambo International, or any of the international airports, or by roads through the borders.

With COVID-19, and the Covid protocols, it is near impossible for Bushiri to escape via international airports without paperwork, or detection. It will be near impossible to bribe officials between multiple gates of the airport until he gets out of the country without detection.

Through the borders of the national roads, Bushiri has to skip multiple borders to get to Malawi. He will have to bribe officials between the country borders that he will be going through, and that is not an easy feat to achieve.

The only plausible area where he could have been able to leave without much hassle is the Waterkloof Airforce Base, together with the Malawi Presidential delegation.

All that the Malawian president had to do is to bring him into Waterkloof as part of the delegation, and driving him straight through the tarmac to the presidential jet.

What is more telling is how is what happened in Malawi. Again, deviating from tradition of having the media and people to welcome the president when he lands, the president landed after midnight, with no media or anyone to welcome him.

The directive by the minister on Wednesday was already going to make it difficult for anyone to get to the airport tarmac to welcome Chakwera and his delegation.

It is no coincidence that Bushiri issued a statement a day after the night when the presidential jet landed in Malawi.

It is no coincidence that he arrived in Malawi on the same day as Malawi president’s delegation came back to Malawi.

(SOURCE: Inside POLITICS. Additional reporting by the Malawi Voice)

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