* It has embarrassed both Malawi and South Africa
* This episode puts Malawi on a list of pariah states
* A man got to do what is got to do
* He now faces a credibility deficit — that’s the challenge to his allegations
* Malawians living in SA will suffer incalculable prejudice
By Duncan Mlanjira
Shepherd Bushiri’s escape from justice in his host country has sparked hot mixed debate on social media with Malawian law Professor Danwood Chirwa, also based there, saying the episode has embarrassed both Malawi and South Africa.
Professor Chirwa contends that this hasn’t helped Bushiri’s fraud and and money laundering court case as it is badly timed and that he has chosen to be brazen about it.
“Citizens in both counties are demanding accountability from their respective government,” Chirwa wrote on Facebook. “It would be good, in an effort to end the growing suspicion and intrigue, that both countries collaborate to investigate the escape and establish if there are any laws that have been violated and to hold all those involved accountable to the law.
“Malawi, like South Africa, has no history of offering refuge to fugitives from justice. It is a country that respects the rule of law and international agreements. There’s a long standing record of cooperation in criminal matters between the Malawi and South Africa.”
Chirwa cites the case of murder suspect fugitive Misozi Chanthunya, who was extradited from South Africa to Malawi in 2018, businessman after seven years fighting his extradition in SA courts.
“The fugitive has since been convicted of murder and sentenced by a Malawian court. The conditions of extradition were complied with.
“This time South Africa will count on this cooperation to bring back Bushiri to face his day in court. It might take time, as the Chanthunya extradition did, but Bushiri will be extradited.
“But as we wait for the extradition process to unfold, both countries need to act responsibly, transparently and expeditiously. There’s a lot at stake here,” Chirwa said
When asked by Jan van Kondowe if it is a matter of precedent for him to be extradited or weighing his case against the SADC Extradition Protocol to see if there are no clauses that would make this case unique, Chirwa responded: “There’s nothing unique. South Africa has a strong judicial system. There’s no basis for saying Bushiri will not be treated fairly at trial.”
Tamiwe Tomoka contends that Bushiri has just purely bolted bail to run away from trial and is seeking sympathy with his allegations on safety but Peter Kuwali defended him, saying: “A man got to do what is got to do” with Elton Francisco Mpira saying this issue is between SA and Malawi governments.
“Both government know what’s going on,” Mpira said. “I am glad that Bushiri is home and safe — the rest is in God’s hands. Running away from a lion doesn’t mean that you are guilty but safety comes first.”
Lawyer Charles Mhango said from the anecdotal narrative so far from those close to the state apparatus in Malawi, there is a sense of dubious reaction to the whole saga.
“The Minister of Information [Gospel Kazako] sounded clueless of the legal obligation that Malawi has towards South Africa under the SADC Protocol on extradition.
“The tone so far seems to indicate that Malawi will not be amenable to sitting down with South Africa to discuss this matter. According to the Minister, South Africa should explain how Bushiri left South Africa, and not the other way round, for Malawi to explain how he entered Malawi.
“Let’s hope this will not be a game of tug of war between Malawi and South Africa.”
According to reports, it was first suspected that President Lazarus Chakwera must have aided Bushiri to sneak out of SA using the plane that flew him there for bilateral talks with his counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
It is reported that Chakwera’s flight back to Malawi was delayed as the South African authorities searched his plane but didn’t find him as it transpired that by that time Bushiri was already in Malawi.
its is alleged that Minister of Foreign Affairs Eisenhower Mkaka, who was in SA as an advance party to Chakwera state visit, had met Bushiri on Tuesday and the SA Intelligence Services picked that up.
This alleged meeting by the two raises many questions which Mkaka is supposed to answer, as indicated by Joshua Chisa Mbele on social media.
“As a citizen of this country I’m very upset — I feel stripped naked,” Mbele said. “[I feel] humiliated that the President was treated as a collaborating accomplice in the escape of a corrupt prophet.
“I’m here scratching my skull, what the hell was Hon. Mkaka doing with Bushiri or agreeing to meet him. What business was being discussed.
“If true, I ask the President to discipline Hon. Mkaka. It seems the Hon. Minister doesn’t understand powers and sensitivities surrounding the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Malawi must distance itself from the Bushiri saga.”
Professor Danwood Chirwa further said no president in the region is moving around but just Chakwera and it is rational to suspect that his travelling to SA provided cover for Bushiri to escape.
“If it is true that Bushiri was in Malawi by Wednesday, Malawi has to explain how they didn’t know by the time Chakwera met Ramaphosa. If the Jerusalem international relations debacle is added to this, we have a badly damaged regime both internationally, regionally and subregionally. All for what?”
Lawyer Mhango responded, saying: “If we have to critique the timelines, and the information emerging that Prophet Bushiri met a senior Minister on Tuesday, it is not feasible for the Prophet to have arrived in Malawi on Wednesday.
“If the theory is that he travelled by road because you need a minimum of 20 hours or so to travel by road from SA to Malawi, both Bushiri and Malawi government should have a good alibi to distance each other from the proximity presented by the facts so far.”
To which Prof. Chirwa said the alleged meeting between Bushiri and Mkaka also provides an opportunity for arranging the means of escape.
“The other bit is that Bushiri could not have remained silent for three days. As we saw yesterday he acted as if he’d just arrived and was bursting with triumph. All this just means that the onus is on Malawi to clear herself. There are too many coincidences to ignore.”
Another lawyer, Reena Purshotam opines that Bushiri “timed his escape perfectly (from his perspective of course). While all were distracted by the presence of the President [in SA] he could sneak out — which he did.”
Tamiwe Tomoka said Bushiri is street smart: “I feel for his advocates and the magistrate who made the ruling. She was so convinced he was not a flight risk” to which Prof. Chirwa agreed, saying: “The Magistrate must be red. And so the advocates.
“No one wants to be in this position. But the Magistrate was correct on the basis of the information she had and the law.”
But Prof. Chirwa says Bushiri’s claims predate his bail hearing as he didn’t mention any of this to the court.
“He could also have applied to have the charges thrown out. In fact, charges have been increasing with every new investigation launched as his life has been placed under the microscope.
“With this incident, other charges will come up too. He had a chance to clear himself in court. He had good advocates. Now he’s created more problems for himself,” he said.
Isaac Buchizga Kadyakale came in to says that nobody seems to comment on his security claims — “Does this mean that we care most of the law than his life.
“I am waiting to hear more of security claims and unfair justice which might have occurred. Would you smile and watch if the investigation officers are the ones you reported to have an offence against you?”