The government of South Africa has dismissed assertions that Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera had a hand in the departure of embattled Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader, Prophet Sheppard Bushiri and his wife Mary from that country.
Director-General of Government Communications and Information Systems, Phumla Williams, said Sunday that the two did not leave South Africa aboard the flight carrying Chakwera and members of his delegation.
“Department of Home Affairs officials in South Africa have verified the identities of all passengers and Bushiri and his wife were not on the flight.
“We have initiated the 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,” Williams said.
She added that Chakwera and his delegation departed from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria and stopped over at OR Tambo International Airport to collect an additional number of officials who had travelled to South Africa earlier to prepare for the working visit.
She added that, when travellers were processed for departure, they were required to present themselves to an immigration officer who, among other things, verified that the passport belonged to the traveller.
Williams has vowed that the Bushiris would face justice in South Africa.
“While this process is underway, law enforcement agencies will continue investigations into this matter,” she said.
Bushiri, who together with his wife Mary jumped bail in South Africa over a R102 million fraud case, might have travelled by road to Lilongwe.
Immigration spokesperson Joseph Chauwa Sunday said they did not have any records showing that Bushiri arrived through KIA on Wednesday evening.
Chauwa said the airport, which uses automated systems, had no records showing that Bushiri came into the country via air transport.
“The land borders still use manual systems and it will take a few days to check,” Chauwa said.
Debate has ensued as to how Bushiri, who surrendered his travel documents to police authorities in South Africa, managed to sneak through the borders into Malawi.
Government spokesperson Gospel Kazako Sunday said they had not received any formal communication from the South African government regarding Bushiri.
Kazako said Malawi would follow the law in handling the issue of Bushiri, adding that authorities in Lilongwe would not use emotions or common sense.
Meanwhile, Chancellor College law lecturer Sunduzwayo Madise has said the matter does not have the potential to fuel a diplomatic spat with South Africa, saying this could have been the case were the President involved in Bushiri’s escape from the Rainbow Nation.
Madise said South Africa should apologise to Chakwera and the Malawi nation for delaying his flight from South Africa by suspecting that he wanted to aid the escape of Bushiri.
“Infact, they must apologise to the entire Malawi nation for delaying our president on his return from South Africa on Friday,” Madise said, adding that Bushiri had no right to escape from South Africa despite the environment being hostile.
According to Madise, the matter is legal and not diplomatic and therefore can best be handled by the courts.
Bushiri, in a televised message on Saturday night, said he was in Malawi temporarily to seek the government’s intervention in his matter.