Fugitive preacher says he will remain in Malawi as South African Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has prejudged his guilt.
CAPE TOWN – Fugitive preacher Shepherd Bushiri on Wednesday signalled that he would not return to South Africa, because he did not believe he would receive a fair trial.
In a statement issued from his native Malawi, Bushiri accused South African Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi of prejudging the twin legal processes he faced in South Africa.
“In this regard, it would never be an understatement to conclude that of the fears of the injustices that I am fearing, the reason I came to Malawi, has just been confirmed by Honourable Motsoaledi, MP (member of Parliament),” he said in his statement.
He implied that Motsoaledi had no right to tell fellow MPs on Tuesday that he and his wife Mary’s South African residence permits were fraudulent.
The minister told Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs that his department felt for that reason, coupled with the porosity of South Africa’s borders, that the couple were a flight risk and should not have been granted bail while they face trial for fraud and money-laundering.
The Bushiris fled South Africa last week, causing diplomatic turbulence with Malawi as law-enforcement authorities feared he may have been trying to abscond on the plane of President Lazarus Chakwera.
South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) delayed Chakwera’s departure, after talks in Pretoria with President Cyril Ramaphosa, to search the presidential plane and scrutinise the identity of all passengers, according to Motsoaledi.
Hours after the minister revealed this, Bushiri reportedly handed himself over to the police in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Bushiri in his statement denied that he was asking the political powers in Malawi to shield him.
“I need to underline that I came to Malawi not to seek political intervention. I came to Malawi to seek justice before the constitution of the Republic of Malawi,” he said.
“I have strong belief in the constitution of Malawi because it protects its every citizen, including my wife and I.“
He added: “Because of that, I will be presenting myself before law-enforcement agencies this morning to legally explain and defend the decisions that I made to come to Malawi.”
He maintained that he was innocent.
“As of now, there is no court in the world that has proven me guilty. I may be subjected by media and public trial, but I maintain my innocence until proven guilty.
“It is unfortunate, therefore, to have the minister of home affairs in South Africa to intentionally and unfairly mislead the people of South Africa and the whole world in this regard.
“I cannot have a fair trial in South Africa!”
He suggested that the couple used passports that they did not hand in to authorities because they were full.
“For the record, my wife and I have five passports each, one of which is a diplomatic passport and one is a normal passport. We submitted all these passports to the investigating officer in South Africa.
“Because we are frequent travellers due to the work of our ministry, the other passports are full. However, they have international visas and hence we kept them. There is nothing sinister about that.”
According to Motsoaledi, the Department of Home Affairs was in court arguing that it should be allowed to seize all the Bushiris’ identification documents when it got word that they had failed to comply with their bail conditions and report to the police.
Bushiri in his statement contested this, as well as an impression he said the minister had created that the couple’s passports were held under false names.
“Unfortunately, during the said briefing, the minister went into the merits of our pending criminal trial as well as the existing internal processes within his ministry in which he is the appeals authority.
“This statement by the minister further strengthens my fear that I will not get a fair trial in South Africa,” he said.
– African News Agency (ANA)