Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri made five demands as a condition for him to return to South Africa for trial.
In a statement on Saturday and then later in a televised address beamed by privately-owned television station Zodiak Broadcasting, Bushiri said he was in his home country to formally ask the Malawian government to intervene in his court battles in South Africa.
“I arrived in Malawi on Wednesday, and my president [Lazarus Chakwera] left for South Africa the following day [Thursday] I have not met my government. I have not spoken to any government official. I will meet my government on Monday.”
Bushiri said he was not running away from his trial but that he wants to involve his native government about his concerns surrounding his criminal cases in South Africa.
He said his South African-based lawyers would on Monday file papers in the high court for his bail not to be revoked.
“I am not running away [from trial]. That is why I am here announcing that I am in Malawi. If you are running – you do not disclose where you are…I am also going to subject myself to Malawian police, I am going to present myself to them…”
The Enlightened Christian Gathering church leader and his wife Mary are facing charges of theft, money laundering and fraud in connection with an alleged R100-million investment scheme.
They were each released on a R200 000 bail each at the Pretoria Central Magistrate’s Court on November 4, following their arrest in October.
As part of their bail they were only allowed to travel within Gauteng and North West until the case was finalised. The couple own a hotel in Rustenburg in North West.
Bushiri made five demands as a condition for him to return to South Africa for trial.
1. First. I want the South African government to assure us of our safety and security whilst in South Africa.
2. Secondly, I want the South African government to assure us that our bail will not be revoked. Our right to fair trial entails that we have access to out lawyers all the time. Revocation of the bail defeats our right to fair trial and also exposes us to further security and safety challenges.
3. Thirdly, I want the officers involved in investigating, arresting and prosecuting us to recuse themselves. As earlier said, this is the same team that I earlier lodged complait against and, also, opened cases against. I won’t have a fair trial with their continued involvement.
4. Fourthly, I want the South African State to see to it that all the issues I lodged and opened against these officers must be pursued to their logical conclusion before proceeding with our case.
5. Finally I want the South African State to appoint independent and professional investigators and prosecutors who should make independent decisions on the cases we are allegedly accused of.
Bushiri said: “The investigation [team] is made of five white police officers, the judge is white and a white prosecutor. As a black man in South Africa I will not have a fair trial.“
He said he had opened cases of extortion against the team of police officers who arrested him and the team investigating his cases.
He said he opened cases in 2018 and he expected the South African judicial system to first deal with the cases he had lodged.
He claimed that soon after opening the cases, his life was in danger and that he was forced to send his two young children to Malawi for safety reasons.
He said they temporarily returned to their home country “because of safety and security issues since 2015, matters that got worse when we just got out on bail”.
“There have been clear and evident attempts to have myself, my wife and my family killed and despite our several attempts to report to authorities, there has never been State protection,” his statement read.
“Our coming to Malawi, hence, is a tactical withdrawal from the Republic of South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives.”
The Bushiris said that they “strongly believe” in their innocence, adding that this “cannot be proved if our lives are not preserved”.
“We have to be alive to testify to our innocence. As we stand here, we were arrested in 2019 on allegedly money laundering charges and it’s getting to two years now without trial because the State is not ready to give it,” they said.
“Equally shocking is the fact that as we kept waiting to get the facts of the recent arrest, the State brought up immigration issues that they, not us, owe the public an explanation. But they want us to explain.
“Against this background, we have come to a painful conclusion that what my wife and I have faced in the Republic of South Africa, since 2015, is purely persecution not prosecution…
“In this regard, I am requesting Malawi government to liaise with the South African government to ensure that the above issues are met. Once these three issues are met and I am assured of a fair, just and impartial trial, I am willing to avail myself before the South Africa justice system,” the self-proclaimed prophet said.
“I am looking forward to that day because my wife and I have long waited for it to prove our innocence and clear our names.”
In the nearly 30 minutes televised briefing on Saturday night, he did not divulge details on how he skipped the country, as he was expected to have handed over his travel documents to the police as part of his bail conditions. – African News Agency/ANA ■