The High Court in Lilongwe has adjourned a case the State is appealing against Magistrate court ruling for unconditional release of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary to the 14th of December 2020 to hear the preliminary objections raised by their lawyers, Wapona Kita and Gift Katundu.
The lawyers are challenging the jurisdiction of the court to sit and hear the application of the state for criminal review when extradition proceedings are civil proceedings.
The State led by lawyer Pilirani Masanjala and Steven Kayuni challenged the unconditional release of the Bushiri’s who were freed by Magistrate court in Lilongwe on the 19th of November 2020, where the Principal Resident Magistrate Viva Nyimba ruled that the two were arrested illegally after they jumped bail in South Africa.
Bushiri’s lawyer, Kira told Nyasa Times: “We have raised preliminary objections to do with the jurisdiction of the court to hear criminal review of what we consider as a civil matter.”
Justice Mwale observed that from the submissions of the State and defence , it is clear that “there are a number of substantive issues that need to be clarified.”
Mwale said if the issue of jurisdiction in successfully challenged, then the proceedings cannot continue in the High Court.
“Substantively, I cannot ignore the challenge of this court’s jurisdiction, however procedurally, whether I must entertain this objection right at this instance is a question I must determine,” said Justice Mwale.
The judge, who presided over the session through the video link on internent portal of Zoom, argued that the higher court has jurisdiction to supervise the lower court, be it on criminal or civil cases.
She claimed that the Criminal procedure and Evidence Court (CP&EC) as well as the Courts Act as the basis on which the higher court can supervise the lower court.
However, the judge faulted the defence team for serving the State lawyers with documents only 24 hours before the commencement of hearing, describing the move as an ambush.
She said in the interest of justice, the State should be given “sufficient time” to respond to Bushiri’s legal team preliminary objections.
“Considering the voluminous nature of the documentation supporting the preliminary objection, in my considered view, 7 days would be sufficient . This time period shall also enable the other party to fully appraise itself with the record,” she said .
The judge adjourned the matter to December 14 2020.
Bushiri of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church, a prophet known for his “miracles” and wildly extravagant lifestyle, was granted bail in South Africa where he has been a resident , in a case of alleged fraud and money laundering. He is co-accused along with his wife, Mary.
And following his exit to his native country, Malawi, in breach of strict bail conditions, South Africa has since issued an arrest warrant for them and initiated a process to extradite them from Malawi.
But Bushiri is determined to put a fight against his extradition as he claims had fled South Africa as he feared for his life and that he would not get a fair trial.