THE extradition hearing against self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, is expected to begin in the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court in Malawi on Monday.
This comes as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) said on Tuesday legal representatives of fugitive leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Shepherd Bushiri were arrested and taken to court but their matter was not enrolled.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said the elite crime-fighting unit has been investigating Bushiri’s legal representatives for crimes including corruption, intimidation and defeating the ends of justice since 2018 in relation to the alleged withdrawal of statements from women who had accused Bushiri of rape.
The charismatic preacher and his wife are wanted in South Africa on fraud and money-laundering charges related to an investment scheme valued at about US$7 million.
The couple were arrested in South Africa, but after being granted bail they fled to Malawi, claiming they were not safe in South Africa.
As part of their bail conditions in South Africa they were only allowed to travel within Gauteng and North West provinces until the case had been finalised.
The couple own a hotel in Rustenburg in North West.
They handed themselves over to the police in Malawi after a warrant of arrest was issued by Interpol.
Lilongwe magistrate Viva Nyimba released them unconditionally, stating that their arrest was unlawful because there was no formal request from South Africa.
Director of Public Prosecutions in Malawi Steven Kayuni filed an application in the Lilongwe High Court to appeal against Nyimba’s ruling to release the couple unconditionally but withdrew the application after South Africa formally requested the couple’s extradition.
The couple are facing charges of theft, fraud, forgery and failing to comply with bail conditions in South Africa.
In a statement on Monday, bemoaning the arrest of his lawyers in South Africa, Bushiri said he left South Africa because he was certain that with the current Hawks investigating team handling his case, he would not receive a fair trial.
He said the arrest of his lawyers was a ploy to intimidate South African lawyers from representing him.
“It’s shocking to note that after my instructing lawyers and the private investigator who, after being unlawfully kept in custody like convicted criminals, the senior State advocates who issued the alleged warrant of arrests were nowhere to be seen and court officials (were) left with no option but to release my lawyers from custody under the banner of claiming that the police investigations are incomplete, yet we know they have been investigating since 2017.
’’Worse, they proceeded to arrest. Clear malice, torture and harassment to the legal practitioners at its best,” said Bushiri.
“Though saddened, I am not surprised with this awful detention because it’s just an escalation and intensification of a failed scheme by certain Hawks officers hell burnt (hell-bent) to cover up the dirt I reported against them.”
He said during his stay in South Africa, he had suffered persecution from Hawks officers who wanted to extort money from him. Bushiri has repeatedly listed the Hawks officers he accused of leading the charge against him as “Phumla Mrwebi, Colonel Corrie Maritz, Du Plessis and their colleagues”.
The preacher, however, insisted Hawks officers he identified as Mrwebi, Maritz and others were still handling his case.
“I left South Africa because I was certain that with Mrwebi, Maritz and their team still handling my cases, as the situation stands, I won’t have justice before South Africa’s justice system. Mrwebi and Maritz know pretty well that I have verified and documented evidence – in print, audio and video – against their every push to intimidate us and cover up the issues that I opened cases against them.
“That is why, to escalate and intensify their intimidation against us, Mrwebi and her team have unlawfully and wrongfully arrested my instructing attorneys, counsel Baloyi and counsel Khoza. Further, to cover up on the intimidation and corruption case I opened against them, Mrwebi and her team have also unlawfully detained the officer from the independent private Investigation who was leading investigations against them.”
The Hawks, however, stated that Maritz was not part of the team probing Bushiri.
The self-proclaimed prophet added that, given the circumstances, he was unsure whether attorneys in South Africa could continue to represent him without fearing unlawful arrest and detention.
“I must add that this is (the) third time my lawyers are detained wrongfully and unlawfully. How will I receive fair trial without legal representatives as those who represent me face this kind of harassment from certain Hawks members such as Mrwebi,” Bushiri said. — African News Agency (ANA)