The Immigration Department in Malawi has dismissed assertions by the South African government that Shepherd Bushiri and wife Mary have several passports that were issued in Malawi.
The department’s spokesperson Joseph Chauwa said Tuesday that the Bushiris have one diplomatic passports each.
This is in sharp contrast to what South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told that country’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee yesterday.
Motsoaledi told committee members who summoned him to Parliament to shed light on the Bushiris’ escape that the Malawian couple had several passports, all of them issued in Malawi and none in South Africa.
In a televised inquiry Tuesday morning, Motsoaledi further expressed surprise that the Bushiris left the country because there are no records of his passport in any of their borders.
But Chauwa dismissed the assertion, saying their records show that Bushiri has one passport, a diplomatic one.
“When one is renewing his or her passport, one passport is deactivated and cannot be used. In the case of [Prophet] Bushiri, the only passport that is active is the diplomatic one, which is in police hands in South Africa,” Chauwa said.
Chauwa could, however, not be drawn to comment on how Bushiri entered into Malawi, saying immigration authorities were still investigating the matter.
After the meeting, the South African Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation (IR) issued a statement that called on relevant authorities in both jurisdiction to amicably resolve the matter.
Chairperson of the IR Committee Tandi Mahambehlala says in a statement that it is important that relevant departments in both jurisdictions resolve the matter expeditiously.
“It cannot be appropriate for Bushiri to pit regional trade partners against each other. Malawi and South Africa historically have strong bilateral and regional ties that ought to be strengthened and respected.
“The claims of xenophobia Bushiri made in seeking sympathy from his government are a concern and could potentially compromise South Africa at a time when it should lead recovery of regional economies,” Mahambehlala says.
She also brushes aside allegations that Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera played a role in smuggling Bushiri out of South Africa at the conclusion of his state visit on Friday last week.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Gospel Kazako has said Malawi values its relationship with South Africa, such that the Bushiri issue would be handled in line with the law.
In an interview with Newzroom Africa, Kazako said Malawi would like to strengthen its relationship with South Africa and that people should not be looking at the issue of Bushiri as something that could derail the process that Chakwera started when he visited South Africa last week.
“People are using the word diplomatic row; I don’t think there is any diplomatic row. It is an issue we are going to sort out. You must remember that we have so many Malawians that are living in South Africa and it is not the first time that a Malawian has been called to court.
“Bushiri is one of our citizens. Bushiri stays in South Africa and, this time around, he has been wanted [sic]. We have had such situations before and we handled them very well and we don’t think this is any different from any other issue we have handled before,” Kazako said.
The Pretoria Magistrates Court on Monday revoked their bail and also ordered that the Bushiris forfeit the R200,000 bail bond they each paid. The Bushiris also risk losing their residence if they fail to report to police in South Africa by tomorrow.
South African criminal investigators, the Hawks, yesterday said they had applied for a Red Notice with Interpol to provisionally arrest the Bushiri couple.
A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said the arrest notice will become active if the Bushiris are not at the Pretoria Magistrates Court Thursday.
National Police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, declined to comment on the matter.
The Bushiris arrived in Malawi on Wednesday night from South Africa after jumping bail, claiming their lives were in danger.