20th November 2020
Self-proclaimed prophet Shephard Bushiri and his wife Mary were "released unconditionally" from police custody by a magistrate in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe on Thursday afternoon.
The magistrate ruled that the couple's arrest went against the country's laws and ordered that they be freed without bail.
The couple was taken into Malawian police custody on Wednesday, reportedly on orders of a warrant from Interpol since they violated their bail conditions in South Africa and fled the country where they were facing charges of alleged fraud, money laundering, and theft to the value of more than R100 million.
Since the couple failed to adhere to the warning issued by the Pretoria Magistrate's court, the couples' R5.5 million property at Midstream Estate in Centurion was ordered to be forfeited to the state, the R400 000 the Bushiri's paid as bail was also forfeited.
Bushiri issued a statement on Facebook following his release, which reads: "In his ruling, the magistrate ordered that my wife and I must be released unconditionally because our arrest was illegal. Further, the magistrate also ruled that whenever they have a case against my wife and I, we should appear before court through summon not arrest.'
"I am also informed that some of my assets in SA have been confiscated by authorities, to which I say: 'My right to life is more important than any asset in this world.'
"Whatever has happened today, I don’t see it as our victory, neither our lawyers. God has won. Tomorrow is better than today!"
According to Malawian news publication NationOnline, the state had opposed the Bushiris being released on bail in Malawi on the basis that they violated their bail conditions in SA but the defense countered that they be released on the basis that their arrest was unlawful.
The state then asked that they be remanded in custody for 30 days while SA made a formal extradition request.
Meanwhile back in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa reflected on the Bushiri debacle, and referred to the Bushiris' increasing media coverage as "concerning."
According to the eNCA, Ramaphosa is awaiting a report from the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi on how Shephard Bushiri and his wife managed to escape and how they owned five passports each.
"The Bushiri matter has been very concerning to all of us. I'm waiting for a detailed report on the whole Bushiri saga, which I will get, and we will then see what action needs to be taken," said Ramaphosa.
In other related news, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said that the state would send extradition papers to Malawi for the Bushiri couple within the next two weeks.
"We want these papers to be sent within the next two weeks because we understand the urgency of the matter and upon sending the documents, we will then liaise with our colleagues in Malawi about the process," said Lamola.
Lamola also assured that the claim made by Bushiri that they would not get a fair trial in South Africa was untrue.
"They are guaranteed a fair trial in our country. Our processes have been tested over time. Our guarantee of a fair trial is not in dispute in the judicial system in our country, which has proven to be resilient and also proven to be fair, free and without any influence from anyone," added Lamola.
The National Prosecuting Authority acknowledged that the extradition process could be costly for SA, and suggested that the Bushiris' multi-million rand home be auctioned off to fund the costs incurred.