Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has assured members of Parliament that self-proclaimed Malawian prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary, did not leave the country with a delegation of Malawian President, Lazarus Chakwera, while on a state visit last week.
Motsoaledi is appearing before Parliament’s portfolio committee to explain issues around the Bushiri couple’s permanent residency.
They have violated their bail conditions and fled to Malawi.
They are charged with theft, fraud and money laundering involving over R100 million.
Motsoaledi has explained to MPs that the planes of the presidential team last week, was searched twice to ensure the Bushiri couple was not on the flight.
He added that all persons from that delegation leaving the country was processed using legitimate identity documents on the Home Affairs electronic movement control system.
Malawi’s government has accused South Africa of detaining its presidential plane for several hours without any reason.
President Lazarus Chakwera was on a state visit to South Africa on Friday but his departure was delayed due to security reasons.
Malawian authorities say that Chakwera’s advance delegation was initially refused permission to travel back with the President citing unspecified security concerns.
This weekend, Pastor Sheperd Bushiri and his wife Mary’s escape sparked rumours that they had fled with the assistance of the Chakwera’s staff.
Both governments have refuted the rumour.
In the video below, Motsoaledi addresses the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee:
On Saturday, Bushiri delivered a public address:
Who are the Bushiris?
The Bushiris have stirred controversy for their flamboyant wealth and have been criticised for portraying false prophecy among other notorious spiritual leaders with mass followings.
Wealth and church empire:
The Bushiris have a major religious following in South Africa, being charismatic leaders who often claim to have spiritual healing powers.
Shepherd Bushiri’s church hosts a popular crossover service on New Years’ Eve annually at the FNB Stadium which tens of thousands of followers attend.
The Bushiris own a collection of luxury cars worth millions, which include a Bentley Bentayga, Aston Martin One-77 and Rolls Royce Black Badge. The couple also own a R5.5m property at the Midstream Estate in Centurion and at least one private jet.
Bushiri has claimed to be a prophet with healing powers, saying he changed the fortunes of the impoverished, has cured people of HIV and made the blind see.
In 2017, social media users criticized the church leader when ticket prices to his “exclusive” gala dinner ranged between R1 000 and R25 000.
The Bushiris were arrested, among two others, in October on charges of fraud, money laundering and theft worth more than R102 million.
Earlier this month, the couple was ordered to hand over the title deed of their Midstream Estate home to the State. The Bushiris forfeited their passports and were banned from travelling outside South Africa.
Following their escape to Malawi, South African police have warned the couple to present themselves to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Thursday or risk forfeiting their Midstream Estate property.
On Sunday, the South African government said that it had initiated the extradition process for Malawi to hand him over. -Additional reporting Sesona Mahlahla.
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