NABBED: Malawi’s Prophet Bushiri Who Fled SA Over Fraud Released By Court

Bushiri and wife Mary in court Wires/ Photo

LILONGWE, Malawi{SHIFTMEDIA} – Malawi Magistrate’s Court on Thursday said the arrest of millionaire preacher Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary was illegal and ordered their immediate release.

The couple was arrested by Malawian police, acting on a warrant from Interpol after fleeing SA, on Wednesday.

Acting chief resident magistrate Viva Nyimba said the arrest was illegal since the warrant of arrest was not channelled through the ministry of homeland security.

Malawian news publication NationOnline reported that the state had opposed the Bushiris being released on bail by the courts in Malawi as they had already skipped bail in South Africa.

The state asked for them to be remanded in custody for 30 days while SA makes a formal extradition request.

But the defence countered that they should be released from custody.

Magistrate Nyimba said the court would act independently, and not be influenced by anything.

He said the arrest of the Bushiris was illegal as it did not follow proper procedure since there was no warrant of arrest from a court or authority from the minister.

Nyimba said the two voluntarily surrendered themselves to police and there was no risk that they would not comply with further obligations.

There was a commotion at court as the Bushiris arrived and people had to fight their way into the courtroom.

Meanwhile,  South African Justice minister, Ronald Lamola yesterday said the process to extradite the Bushiris had started.

Speaking at a post-cabinet briefing, Lamola said that Cabinet was pleased with the way the justice cluster was responding to the saga.

The couple fled to Malawi last week, breaching their bail conditions.

They face charges of fraud, theft and money-laundering.

A Centurion property, valued at R5.5-million and owned by the couple, has been forfeited to the state. — Wires.

Background to his woes

Months ago, Enlightened Christian Gathering leader ‘prophet’ Shepherd Bushiri was mocked for his prophecy that 2020 would be a ‘great year’. Bushiri and his wife Mary appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on charges related to fraud and money laundering worth R102-million on Wednesday, the couple’s second court appearance in two weeks.

In an interview published on Enlightened Christian Gathering’s (ECG) website, church leader Shepherd Bushiri says men of God “who have been blessed with a fortune” are often vilified “but, if you read the Bible, you will note that men of God were rich”.

Bushiri, 37, and his wife Mary, 39, appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on charges of fraud and money laundering worth R102-million on Wednesday after they were arrested by the Hawks the previous day.

Hundreds of churchgoers were reported to have gathered outside the court to support the controversial “prophet”, whom they call “Major One” or “Papa”.

Bushiri has been referred to as one of the richest religious leaders on the continent, worth an estimated $150-million, and is often pictured with his private jet or luxury vehicles. ECG operates in multiple African countries, with 110 branches and a million worshippers in South Africa, Bushiri said in recent court papers.

Bushiri’s Sandton-based company Shepherd Bushiri Investments has interests in mining, real estate, and an airline, according to ECG’s website. In 2018, Bushiri launched the Sparkling Waters Hotel and Spa in Magaliesburg, one of eight hotels he reportedly owns across the globe.

“According to Bushiri, he ventured into business to support his family as he does not believe the church must support his family,” states ECG’s website.

Bushiri, who has claimed he can walk on air and perform miracles such as curing people of HIV, has often been accused of swindling church members, most notably by rival evangelical pastor Mboro Motsoeneng.

Willah Mudolo is the founder of the African Development Funding Group and according to his LinkedIn and personal website is a major supporter of former first lady Tobeka Zuma’s foundation. He also leads property development company Rising Estates.

According to City Pressin 2017 Bushiri told congregants they could earn a 50% profit within 30 days if they joined a “commodity investment opportunity”, with the minimum investment starting at R100,000.

The publication said church members flocked to invest and arrived at the church on the allotted days with cash, as advised. Those who could not deliver the cash were advised to deposit their investments with Rising Estates, run by Bushiri’s close associates.

City Press quoted multiple church members who claimed they invested in the scheme but had not received any returns.

Police arrested Mary, a director at Shepherd Bushiri Investments, at a Sandton property and her husband, whom the Hawks said handed himself over with an “entourage of attorneys” after “attempting to evade the team”.

In a separate case, the couple was arrested on fraud and money laundering charges, involving over R15-million, in February 2019. In that case, they appeared in a pre-trial conference last week and the case is scheduled to be heard in the Pretoria High Court in May and June 2021.

Also included in that case is the couple’s alleged illegal violation of exchange control regulations for purchasing a 1984 Gulfstream jet for R19-million in cash.

Thousands of congregants attend Bushiri’s sermons and in recent years he has reportedly filled up FNB Stadium during his “crossover service” on New Year’s Eve.

In 2019, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities said he was not responsible for a stampede at his Pretoria Showgrounds church the previous year, where three people died and 17 others were injured.

While expressing his willingness to be subjected to the law, the “prophet” has dismissed the various allegations against him. He claims his detractors are either jealous of his church’s success or focusing on his wealth due to racism.

“I am a businessman and that is separate from being a prophet. My prosperity is from private businesses. Such questions are not asked from leaders of white churches but when an African man prospers, then it’s a problem,” he told BBC in 2018.

Video clips of Bushiri telling congregants he foresaw that 2020 would be a “great year” have been widely circulated on social media. Part of the year, however, could see the Bushiris await trial in prison as prosecutors on Wednesday argued that the couple should be denied bail.

Shift Media News

Read Previous

CURFEW: California Slaps Fresh Night Curfew As COVID 19 Surges

Read Next

BACKTRACK: Comedian Kato Lubwama Now Says Bobi Wine Is Force To Reckon With

One Comment

Leave a Reply