Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary are off the hook for now, after a court in Malawi ordered their immediate release. The Bushiris applied for bail in the capital Lilongwe on Thursday, 19 November 2020.
Presiding over the proceedings, Magistrate Viva Nyimba found that the Bushiris’ arrest was illegal and that the couple should be set free, without any bail being imposed.
“We’re aware of bilateral relationship between the two countries, but the rule of law must prevail,” Nyimba said.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has said the Bushiris’ extradition process had been initiated on the basis of SA Development Community protocol and a bilateral treaty with Malawi. The couple’s lawyer said however, their argument was not based on such but purely on the legality of the arrest.
“There were two applications today before the court. There was an application by the state to continue their detention and there was an application on behalf of the Bushiris to have them released and both applications were heard side by side,” the couple’s lawyer Wapona Kita said in an interview with eNCA.
No authority from Malawi to arrest Bushiris, says lawyer
Despite government claiming it had engaged the Malawian government on the saga, the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court found that the local ministry had not given the go-ahead for the couple to be arrested.
“We were arguing that their arrest was illegal because there was no authority from the (Malawian) minister to proceed with the extradition proceedings. On that basis, the court agreed with us”
The Bushiris’ lawyer, Wapona Kita
The Bushiris fled to their native country, in violation of their bail conditions. They, 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.
Their bail application in Malawi came on the same day they were set to return to the court for the aforementioned charges. They are now out at least R6 million, which includes the value of their home. Magistrate Thandi Theledi has ordered for the property to be seized by the stat after they failed to make an appearance.
This is days after they had already forfeited their combined R400 000 bail.
The Bushiris already had two warrants out for their arrest, the first one having been issued by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks.
The North Gauteng High Court subsequently issued another warrant, for similar charges in another case. The Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court released the Bushiris on R100 000 bail each in 2019. This is in relation to another fraud and money laundering case to the tune of R15 million.