Fugitive Malawi pastor surrenders to police Controversial millionaire pastor turned himself in to police in the Malawi’s capital Lilongwe on Wednesday
South Africa authorities had issued a warrant of arrest against the self-declared “prophet” for skipping bail and fleeing home to Malawi
Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, are facing charges of money laundering and fraud in South Africa
Shepherd’s appearance in Malawi caused a diplomatic row with south Africa as President Lazarus Chakwera was visiting that country last week
Speculation in SA is that a member of Chakwera’s entourage had aided Bushiri’s escape
A controversial millionaire pastor has turned himself in to police after South Africa issued a warrant of arrest against him for skipping bail and fleeing home to Malawi.
Shepherd Bushiri, leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering church and his wife, Mary, are facing charges of money laundering and fraud in South Africa.
South African prosecutors say the case involves $6.6million [102 million South Africa rand].
Bushiri appeared at Pretoria’s Magistrates Court on 21 October to hear the charges and was granted bail on 4 November.
He skipped bail sometime last week, something he described on Saturday as “a tactical withdrawal meant to preserve lives”.
By skipping bail, the couple risked forfeiting their $26,000 [400,000 Rand] bail money, as well as, their home which is valued at $356,000 [5.5million Rand].
The South African government said on Sunday that it had initiated the extradition process for Malawi to hand him over.
The South African police then issued the warrant for his arrest on Monday and said that if he doesn’t present himself to court before 19 November he will forfeit his residence.
But Malawi government spokesman has said a formal extradition request had not been received.
On Saturday he told his social media followers that he had left the country because he had received death threats.
Bushiri has refused to reveal how he escaped from Pretoria.
Police in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe say the couple surrendered on Wednesday as officers were looking for them following an arrest warrant they received from Interpol.
Some reports say that the self-declared “prophet” and his wife were smuggled out last week by a sophisticated syndicate which specializes in taking stolen cars from South Africa to Malawi.
Bushiri’s appearance in Lilongwe may yet cause a diplomatic row between the countries.
Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera was in South Africa on a state visit last week, as the rumor was swirling in South Africa that a member of his entourage had aided Bushiri’s escape.
This has been denied by officials in both Malawi and South Africa, but a diplomatic row may yet be brewing.
South Africa’s Parliament is demanding answers about how Shepherd Bushiri and his wife managed to flee South Africa.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was summoned before a portfolio committee on Wednesday to explain how the couple crossed the border without their passports.
Malawi’s foreign minister told the BBC that he thought the South African authorities suspected the Malawians were trying to smuggle out the controversial preacher.
“When we were coming to Malawi leaving South Africa, we were exposed to stringent checks. It is just now that we are beginning to realize that maybe there was a suspicion that we were trying to smuggle Bushiri out of South Africa,” Malawi’s foreign minister Eisenhower Mkaka said in an interview on Saturday.
Mkaka has complained about the seven-hour delay to the president’s journey, on social media, which included “vague security reasons” for thorough checks of the presidential plane.
The foreign minister noted that the South African authorities had categorically stated that Bushiri had not escaped on the presidential plane.
But he described South Africa’s treatment of President Chakwera as “improper”.
The reportedly, mega rich preacher grew up in Mzuzu, a city in northern Malawi, and moved to Pretoria in South Africa where he leads his church – the Enlightened Christian Gathering. He is so popular that he has been known to fill sports stadiums with followers.
Bushiri has been described as one of the richest religious leaders in Africa.
He claims to have cured people of HIV, made the blind see, changed the fortunes of the impoverished and, on at least one occasion, appeared to walk on air, although none of these claims have been scientifically proven.
But he also courts controversy.
In the past he has been accused of preying on poor people, desperate to improve their lives, by selling merchandise including “miracle oil”.
In January 2018, authorities in Botswana shut down his church after it claimed that money could be summoned out of nothing, which contravened financial regulations