Malawi has voiced concern at the treatment accorded to President Lazarus Chakwera by South African authorities following a seven-hour hold-up at Pretoria’s Waterkloof Airforce Base as immigration and security officials barred some members of his delegation from boarding the presidential plane.The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said South African officials used “vague security reasons” to bar members of Chakwera’s advance team from boarding the plane.
“The South African authorities’ inexplicable refusal to let Malawi’s President leave with his advance team came despite being informed of the arrangement in advance, in conformity to a similar arrangement made in all the countries President Chakwera has visited thus far,” the ministry said in a statement.
The plane was scheduled to leave South Africa at 3.30pm (1330 GMT) but did not leave until 10.30pm.
It said Chakwera refused to depart without members of his advance party.
“The Malawi delegation complied with all the security measures out of deference to the vague security concerns of the South African authorities despite the fact that the manner in which they were conducted and the delay they caused breached diplomatic protocols commensurate with the dignity of President Chakwera’s office and person,” the ministry said.
The statement by the Malawi government comes amid speculation in the South African media that the delay in the departure of the plane was due to suspicions that the Malawian leader may have been harbouring fugitive preachers Shepherd and Mary Bushiri.
The Bushiris fled to their native Malawi last week while on bail for a money laundering and fraud case.