Popular South African based preacher, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri has jumped bail and fled to Malawi ahead of his fraud trial in South Africa.
The preacher was granted bail early November in case of fraud and money laundering against him by South African authorities. His bail conditions prohibit him and other co-accused, from leaving South Africa.
Bushiri, a controversial Malawian Christian preacher, motivational speaker, author and businessman, founded and leads a Christian non-denominational evangelical church known as the Enlightened Christian Gathering.
Issues and allegations bothering on fraud and money laundering led to the seizure of his private jet by South African authorities.
Bushiri, however, says his escape to Malawi was a tactical strategy to save his life, which he claims has been unsafe in South Africa. He claimed to have narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in South Africa.
He made a defense for his movement to Malawi via a Video broadcast on his church Facebook page Saturday.
Despite allegations of fraud, the preacher seems to enjoy huge support from his followers.
“If I wanted to run away, I would not have come to Malawi. Running away, you go to a country where you don’t tell people where you are. Right now, I’m informing the whole world that I’m in Malawi.”Shepherd Bushiri
Bushiri suspected to have escaped South Africa to Malawi on Chakwera’s presidential jet
Observers fear the issue could cause a diplomatic spat between Malawi and South Africa – as questions are being asked about how Mr Bushiri and his wife managed to leave.
There had been allegations that Mr Bushiri fled on Malawi’s presidential jet with President Lazarus Chakwera, a view that has been denied by both Mr Chakwera’s office and the South African authorities.
There are also questions over whether the two countries will co-operate over bringing the couple back to South Africa.
The South African government announced on Sunday that they have started the process to bring the couple back from Malawi “to ensure that the two fugitives face justice”.
The statement made a point to mention that Malawi and South Africa have already promised each other to send back fugitives, as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on extradition.
The Malawi’s Foreign Affairs minister, Eisenhower Mkaka told the BBC that it is the duty of the government to protect all Malawians but added that President Chakwera is a staunch advocate of the rule of law and that all diplomatic channels will remain open.
President Chakwera flew to Pretoria for a two-day working visit and met his South African counterpart on Friday. The two leaders engaged in bilateral talks along the lines of national development and cooperation between the two countries, including special permits for Malawian citizens working in South Africa.
It is reported that Bushiri arrived in Malawi earlier than President Chakwera’s home return. His lawyer confirmed Bushiri arrived in Malawi while Chakwera was in Pretoria.
The Malawian Information Minister, Gospel Kazako said the Malawian government would require a formal request by South Africa for Prophet Shepherd Bushiri’s extradition.