Bushiri latest: Prophet was handed ‘irregular’ residency – Motsoaledi

Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary will be arrested on the spot if they decide to try and leave Malawi, South African Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said, adding that the couple were never legally permitted to reside or run a business in SA at all due to irregularities in their visas and residency permits.

Motsoaledi was grilled by the department’s parliamentary committee on Tuesday 17 November, just days after the self-proclaimed prophet and his wife fled South Africa after being released on R200 000 bail each. 

Bushiri bail decision ‘made me angry’ – Motsoaledi  

Motsoaledi conceded during the virtual meeting that the decision by the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court to grant the Bushiris bail was always likely to backfire, saying that South Africa’s porous border security and the flight risk presented by the couple should have been far more rigorously considered. 

“On the day he was given bail I was very angry and I still am. I suspected what would happen,” he said. 

He confirmed that the couple’s bail has been revoked and that warrants for their arrest have been issued. He noted that reports suggesting that the Bushiris are hoping to move further away from South Africa by entering Ghana or any other African country will ultimately come to nought because they will be arrested as soon as they try and enter another country. 

“Yesterday, bail was revoked and a warrant of arrest was issued. The reason it was rushed is because once it is issued, it is given to Interpol and every country is forced to arrest such a person once they leave.”

“In terms of international codes, wherever he goes that country is forced by international law to arrest him.”

Bushiris never granted legitimate residency

Motsoaledi revealed that both Bushiris were set to be deported due to the fact that they did not, at any stage of their stay in South Africa, have the proper immigration documents that permitted them to reside or run a business in the country. 

“Mr Bushiri himself entered South Africa round about 2009. But the real movement control system indicates 2013. So we take 2013 as authentic because it is recorded officially,” he said. 

After applying for permanent residency in 2016, the couple declared under oath that they entered South Africa for the first time in 2015. 

“They were granted these permanent residence permits in 2016 which I must state this was issued irregularly because there was misrepresentation of facts,” said Motsoaledi. “This matter is being investigated.” 

He said that in 2014, 2015, 2016 Mr Bushiri registered companies and started conducting business, and that  at this juncture, Bushiri should have applied for a business visa as is demanded by the law. “This means the businesses he was running were not within the law,” said Motsoaledi. 

Malawi deny involvement in Bushiri escape  

In the meantime, the South African government has begun extradition talks with Malawi, with diplomatic tension simmering between the two nations. 

Malawi have voiced their disdain for the South African government after ‘vague security reasons’ led to President Lazarus Chakwera’s return home being delayed by at least seven hours. They have vehemently denied that the Bushiris exited South Arica aboard the plane commissioned by the visiting president

“The government of Malawi is aware and grateful that a public statement was recently issued by the South African government, exculpating President Chakwera from false allegations dominating the South African media that his presidential plane was used as a conduit for trafficking two Malawians [Shepherd and Mary Bushiri] wanted by South African authorities,” they said on Monday. 

The Bushiris – along with three co-accused – face charges of fraud and money laundering to the tune of R102 million. Some of their bail conditions included that they hand in their passports and report to their nearest police station on Mondays and Fridays between 6:00 and 18:00.