South Africa-based prophet Shepherd Bushiri holds a Malawi diplomatic passport, it has emerged as some members of civil society and faith groups have asked government to intervene in the ongoing legal battles of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader.
While South Africa Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaled has said Bushiri and his wife are in South Africa illegally, Malawi Watch executive director Billy Banda said Malawi Government should intervene because Bushiri holds a diplomatic passport.
Under international law, the holder of diplomatic passport enjoy diplomatic immunity and Bushiri should not be condemned with political statements from Minister of Home Affairs as being llegal immigrant in the media.
Banda and Anthony Mukumbwa—a commissioner of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and a close friend of Bushiri— told reporters in Lilongwe that the South African authorities were in breach of international conventions on diplomatic relations.
“There are international Conventions that protect the treatment of diplomats across the world in cases such as this.
“We are therefore calling on Malawi Government to engage the South African Government on this. The statutes must be invoked; the Bushiris must be brought back to Malawi,” he said.
Banda said the group said the Bushiris should face fair trial and enjoy the status of being innocent until proven guilty.
Prophet Bushiri and his wife Mary have a permanent residential status in South Africa duly and legally issued by the Home Affairs Department.
However, between February 6 2019 and March 26 2019, Home Affairs, through some officer there, issued three notices asking Prophet Bushiri and Prophetess Mary to explain how they got the residential status.
Two of those notices were withdrawn by the Courts and the third one was declared by the Courts as ‘irrational, unlawful and invalid’.
Notwithstanding that, the Home Affairs issued another notice, this time on August 2 2020, giving Prophet Bushiri and Prophetess Mary Bushiri 30 days to explain how they got the permanent residence.
Prophet Bushiri’s lawyers challenged the notice and the High Court, on 21 October 2020, suspended the notice until May 31 2021 after the couple takes a plea in the 2019 case. The Home Affairs has said it will challenge the ruling before Supreme Court.
As of now, Prophet Bushiri and his wife still have their permanent residential status in South Africa until the courts decide otherwise.
Bushiri, currently remanded and back in court on Friday for bail application, faces fraud charges involving about K4.6 billion (R102 million) following their arrest by South Africa’s special serious organised crimes unit, the Hawks.
The Bushiris were also arrested in February 2019 and face separate charges of fraud, money laundering and the contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) for offences they allegedly committed from 2015.
Prophet Bushiri registered ECG and a series of other companies in 2015 after he moved from Malawi to South Africa.
He has a growing congregation of over two million people who queue up outside his Pretoria church to witness what he calls “miracles”.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :