The South African government should take the blame for self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary’s escape to Malawi following the granting of bail to the couple in a US$7 million fraud, theft and money laundering case, Action South Africa leader Herman Mashaba said on Thursday.Mashaba, a former Johannesburg mayor under the ruling African National Congress who now heads his own party, said the Bushiris’ escape from South Africa had portrayed the country in a negative light.
“As far as I’m concerned, the fault lies directly with the South African government. I think we’ve really turned (the country) into a banana republic,” Mashaba said.
He said the incident was “an embarrassment to the entire nation.”
“Yes, as a South African, I feel embarrassed,” Mashaba said of the Bushiris outwitting the country’s law enforcers to return to his home of origin.
He added: “How can someone escape from the country? Secondly, how could he have the audacity to hold a press conference after leaving the country without our government’s knowledge?”
This is an apparent reference to a virtual address Bushiri made on Saturday in Lilongwe to confirm his escape, and at the same time to appeal to the Malawian government to intervene in his case in South Africa.
During the online press briefing, Bushiri said he and his wife had jumped bail because they feared for their lives in South Africa.
He said there had been many attempts to have the couple and other family members killed.
The couple were due to make their first court appearance in Lilongwe, Malawi, on Thursday in response to South Africa’s Interpol-issued arrest warrants which seek their extradition back to Pretoria.
Malawi’s laws allow for the extradition of accused persons to another country – but only after authorities established that the persons faced extraditable charges.
While Malawi is a signatory to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Extradition, its local laws still applied, legal experts noted.
According to Malawi’s extradition law, the process begins at the lower courts with expectations of appeals – and this process could reach as far as the higher courts for a final decision.
The legal process could take several years after Bushiri denied the allegations, saying that he did not commit any of them as charged in the Pretoria court.