A Pretoria magistrate has ordered that Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) pastor, Shepherd Bushiri and wife Mary’s multimillion-rand Centurion property be forfeited to the state after they failed to appear in court.
The Midstream Estate property was linked to the pair’s bail conditions set over a week ago.
“That is what the court decided because they violated their bail conditions,” NPA Spokesperson Sipho Ngwema confirmed to Daily Maverick on Thursday.
Magistrate Thandi Theledi issued the order after the couple failed to appear in court for the second time since being released.
The ruling comes after the Hawks had on Monday 16 November, warned the Bushiris that they risked losing their property if they failed to appear in court. It was highly unlikely that the two would honour the court appearance given that they are currently in Malawi having skipped bail last week. They have since handed themselves over to Malawi authorities, Malawi Information Minister Gospel Kazako confirmed.
Warrants of arrests in South Africa have since been issued for the couple who have a strong following in South Africa.
“The North Gauteng High Court has issued warrants for the arrest of fugitive Mr Shepherd Bushiri and Mary Bushiri who broke bail conditions and fled to Malawi several days ago. At the time of their disappearance Mr and Ms Bushiri had posted bail of R100 000 each and were required to regularly present themselves to authorities as part of complying with their bail conditions,” a Hawks statement released earlier in the week reads.
Speaking on Radio 702 on Thursday 19 November, Kazako confirmed that they had received communication from Interpol Pretoria that they were looking for the couple. He also confirmed that the pair spent Wednesday night in custody after they turned themselves in the day before. Kazako said the Bushiris were due to appear in court in their home country on Thursday 19 November.
Kazako said the Malawian government did not want to interfere and hinder systems that were in place for the administration of justice. He noted that the Malawian government was criticised by the South African media for allegedly employing delaying tactics and were seemingly unwilling to hand over the Bushiris to South African authorities. Kazako said it was not about whether they were willing or not to handover the Bushiris but about the law.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has called on the government to submit a red notice request to Interpol for the Bushiris’ extradition. The party said it believed that submission of the red notice will bring the Malawian law enforcement authorities on board to take action against the Bushiris and to support and speed up extradition proceedings.
The Bushiris face charges of theft, fraud and money laundering to the tune of R102 million.
During his stay in South Africa, Bushiri has courted much controversy.
In late 2018, three people died at the Pretoria branch of the ECG following a stampede. At the time many South Africans demanded that the Bushiris leave the country after they were accused of defeating the ends of justice in relation to the stampede. They were accused of ordering the removal of the bodies of victims from the scene of the stampede.
In August two women accused Bushiri of rape. Both victims claimed that Bushiri had handed each of them R5 000 after the rapes, and stated that they wanted justice for his actions.
Interest in the Bushiris has been steadily rising since their arrest and rose sharply once they fled the country claiming that they feared for their lives.
During previous court appearances, throngs of the self-proclaimed prophet’s supporters arrived in court in their numbers to support their leader who they affectionately refer to as “Papa”, “Spiritual Father”, and other names.
“My God, I’m the daughter of Major 1. The one thing I want to tell you is that Major 1 is my prophet, my father, my oracle and my hero. Goodbye,” Modipadi Mashia, a staunch Bushiri supporter told Daily Maverick on Thursday.
As things currently stand, it would seem that the Bushiris’ return to South Africa to face the music is largely dependent on the full cooperation of the Malawi government. DM
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