Pandor: We did not help smuggle Bushiris out of SA

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor has denied that her department assisted self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary flee the country and said the saga surrounding the couple should be rather left to the authorities.

The rebuttal was in response to an IOL report, which claimed the Bushiris’ escape was the result of a well-coordinated effort by Dirco and the Malawian government.

Dirco calls for Bushiris report to be retracted

In a statement, Pandor said the saga surrounding the Bushiris should be the subject of full and proper investigation by the responsible authorities rather than speculation that borders on irresponsible journalism.

“Officials in DIRCO work diligently and are entitled to do so without having their reputations tarnished by unnamed sources that hide in the shadows,” Dirco said in a statement.

“It is concerning that DIRCO was not afforded an opportunity to respond to these serious allegations by the newspaper concerned”

Dirco further called on IOL to retract the report on the Bushiris and said it would be seeking legal advice.

“Government continues to investigate this matter and is working closely with the Government of the Republic of Malawi to achieve a resolution aimed at ensuring that the law of the Republic of South Africa is upheld,” the department said.

The Bushiris are believed to have fled the country on Wednesday, 11 November 2020, which coincided with Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera. Speculation was rife that the couple had jetted to Malawi with the delegation, however government was quick to deny this.

According to the publication, this may have been more than just plain conjecture. IOL claims the Bushiris, who had funded Chakwera’s presidential campaign, complained to embassy officials about feeling abandoned by him, in light of their mounting legal troubles.

The Bushiris were reportedly handed fake diplomatic passports – the publication quoted a ‘source’ who said:

“Even though the passports were not saying Bushiri, he was using a decoy name. Their surnames are not Bushiris but they look like the Bushiris, with few cosmetic changes here and there”

The Bushiris along with three co-accused face charges of fraud and money laundering to the tune of R102 million. They were each released on R200 000 bail by the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court after being in police custody for more than two weeks.