Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa has today rejected an application by the State to have South African witnesses testify virtually in the extradition case involving the flamboyant Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary.
In his ruling delivered on Tuesday, Chirwa said the court does not have a provision or a legal basis to warrant the application of the State.
In May 2021, it was ordered that South Africa should send witnesses to testify under oath in Malawi and share all evidence of their allegations.
The State was supposed to parade the South Africa witnesses in Malawi Courts last Friday but failed opting to make a video-conference hearing. Dr. Steven Kayuni who is Director of Public Prosecutions cited COVID-19 and unavailability of flights as some of the factors that prevented the witnesses from travelling into Malawi.
But in his ruling today, Chirwa said that the State did not provide sufficient legal grounds to warrant their application and failed to challenge that there were no flights between Malawi and South Africa for witnesses to travel.
Additionally, the magistrate noted that the State failed to prove whether witnesses of age were vulnerable to pandemic, adding that the State also failed to provide evidence that some of the witnesses tested positive.
The soft-spoken magistrate, then, underlined that the Court and counsel in Malawi is able to conduct trials while preserving pandemic rules and regulations—as such no need for video conferencing.
In wrapping up his ruling, Chirwa reiterated that it is mandatory, for disposition purposes, that witnesses appear before courts, as such, they must avail themselves in Malawi.
He further chastised the State, saying the court is ready to take it upon itself to apply force if witnesses do not want to show up.
The matter has been adjourned to July 12, 2021.