NPA, Hawks to finalise formal extradition request for Bushiris

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Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary.
Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary.
PHOTO: Gallo Images
  • The NPA and Hawks have been given two weeks to prepare a formal extradition request for Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary.
  • "We are convinced the Bushiris will come back to South Africa to stand trial," Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said.
  • It remains unclear how they escaped from South Africa, and the investigation is continuing.

It is still unclear how Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, escaped from South Africa, but the government is certain they will be returned to stand trial.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks have been given two weeks to finalise the formal extradition request, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said on Thursday.

He was briefing the media on Wednesday's Cabinet meeting.

Over the weekend, it emerged the corruption-accused self-proclaimed prophet and his wife were on the lam in Malawi after they skipped bail.

The Enlightened Christian Gathering church leader, his wife, and three others are accused of fraud involving around R102 million.

READ | Bushiris hand themselves over to police in Malawi

The couple was out on R200 000 bail each.

On Friday, they failed to appear for their check-in with police – a bail condition.

On Saturday, in an interview broadcast on the church's social media channels, they said they fled because they believed their lives were in danger and they would not get a fair trial in South Africa.

The Cabinet statement notes that it was briefed on the matter.

READ | 'We are going to take action, that's for sure' - Ramaphosa awaiting report on Bushiri escape

"Cabinet was satisfied with the manner in which the Justice, Crime Prevention and Safety Cluster handled the matter and the cluster will update the public on the developments regarding this matter. Extradition processes have been initiated," it reads.

Questioned about the matter, Lamola said the extradition process will be regulated by Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocols and a bilateral agreement with Malawi.

He said the Malawian authorities have, so far, been very cooperative.

Warrant of arrest issued

On Monday, a warrant of arrest was issued, of which copies were issued to Interpol and Malawi. It was executed by Malawian authorities on Wednesday, with the Bushiris' arrest in Lilongwe, Malawi.

This kickstarted the extradition process.

According to SADC protocols, the extradition request is filed within 30 days after an arrest, but the government has given the NPA and Hawks 14 days - which, according to Lamola, will be a "meticulous process".

"We are convinced the Bushiris will come back to South Africa to stand trial," Lamola said.

"They are guaranteed a fair trial in our country."

He said SA's legal processes have been tested over time and fair trials are not in dispute. The country's judicial system has proven to be resilient, free, fair and without any interference.

"So there cannot be a claim of an unfair trial."

Lamola said the trial of the Bushiris will be no exception.

The South African government will do everything in its power to ensure the Bushiris stand trial, he said.

Asked if Cabinet knew how the Bushiris escaped, Lamola said he didn't want to speculate because the investigation by the security cluster is still ongoing.

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