The South African government on Monday said it would contact the Malawian authorities to bring back the fugitive leaders of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church, Shepherd and Mary Bushiri, from their home country where they fled to last week.
According to Government Communication Information Services director-general Phumla Williams, the extradition process was initiated in terms of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Extradition and other legal instruments to which Malawi is a signatory.
The evangelists are facing various corruption charges and were on a US$13,000 bail bond when they escaped to Malawi, violating bail conditions which limited their travel to two provinces in South Africa.
In a statement issued from Malawi, however, the couple said they fled South Africa because their lives were allegedly in danger, citing an incident in which they were reportedly shot at while a filling station. They alleged that they reported the incident to the police but the authorities have failed to protect them.
The couple added that they were not running away from the law. They had, in fact, made “a tactical strategic withdrawal” to demand the South African authorities to guarantee them a free and fair trial when they return to the dock, they said.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) confirmed on Monday that Bushiri and his wife in 2018 opened an alleged corruption case against some police officers who were allegedly trying to extort money from them.
An unnamed Bushiri lawyer opened the case on their behalf but the police never investigated it until the couple were arrested last month accused of money laundering involving US$7 million.
“It is alleged that the police officers investigating several allegations of rape against Mr. Bushiri were trying to extort money from Bushiri so that they make his rape charges case disappear,” the IPID, whose mandate is to oversee police work, said.
“Bushiri, through his lawyer, reported the alleged police corruption to IPID. As part of the investigation process, IPID required Bushiri to provide crucial information about the allegations and to acquire witness statements.
“But Mr. Bushiri’s non-availability due to his busy schedule has been giving IPID investigators a challenge to proceed with this case,” the IPID said.
“Mr. Bushiri has been provided with feedback on the matter. He is well aware that the IPID investigator will proceed with his case as soon as he cooperates fully with the investigation process,” the IPD said.