Minister Aaron Motsoaledi briefs Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee on the fugitive Bushiris saga.
CAPE TOWN — Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has revealed that the controversial self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary had five passports each that were issued by Malawi.
Briefing the home affairs portfolio committee on Tuesday, Motsoaledi said his department got involved in the Bushiri matter sometime last year when the Hawks were investigating alleged instances fraud, corruption and money-laundering.
He said in the course of their investigations, the Hawks came across IDs that had a lot of inconsistencies.
Motsoaledi also said that Mary entered South Africa through OR Tambo International Airport and produced a permanent resident permit issued to her in 1997.
“Obviously, this is surprising,” he said, adding that their movement control system does not have a record of her entering the country in 1997.
Motsoaledi said that Bushiri entered the country in 2009, and that other records show the couple entered in 2013, with Bushiri registering companies and operating businesses between 2014 and 2016.
According to Motsoaledi, Bushiri should have applied for a business visa, but did not do so.
“It means the businesses he was running were not within the law.”
Motsoaledi also said Bushiri and Mary applied for permanent residency permits in 2016.
“They declared under oath that they entered for the first time in 2015. They were granted permanent residency in 2016,” he said.
However, Motsoaledi said the department reached a conclusion that the Bushiris’ stay in the country was not regular.
He said that because of a lot of anomalies they had to revoke their permanent residency status.
“In August, Home Affairs issued a notice asking Mr Bushiri to provide reasons why permanent residence permit should not be withdrawn.”
According to Motsoaledi, the Bushiris approached the court seeking relief that the department be stopped from asking them questions because they had a criminal case to answer in court.
The court ruled in their favour, forcing the department to wait until they pleaded in court.
“We applied for leave to appeal as we did not believe this was a proper ruling,” he said.
The leave to appeal, judgment on which was reserved, was heard when Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera was in the country last week.
The minister told MPs that during the Bushiris’ bail application, his department had provided the irregular and fraudulent documents used and regarded him as a flight risk and that he should not be released.
“It is common of course that we are suffering from porous borders in this country. We believe people who are a flight risk can go through any of our porous borders,” he said.
The court granted the Bushiris R200,000 bail each and instructed them to report to the nearest police station on Mondays and Fridays.
Motsoaledi said the Hawks raised an alarm that the Bushiris did not report to the police station on the day that the Malawi presidential entourage was to depart from Waterkloof Airforce Base.
At the time, an advanced team of the Malawi presidential entourage wanted to depart in the presidential airplane, but they were told it could not happen.
He said the advance team was advised to board at OR Tambo International Airport after negotiations.
Motsoaledi detailed the process that was followed until the team was allowed to board the presidential plane on the tarmac at OR Tambo after they were processed like any other passenger.
Before the plane departed, it was searched and there was no sign of the Bushiris, he said.
Motsoaledi said that on Saturday they heard that Bushiri reappeared in Malawi.
He said this happened despite them being instructed to hand over their travel documents to the police.
“Mr Bushiri has five passports and all are issued in Malawi. Mrs Bushiri has five passports issued by Malawi, not issued by us.”
Motsoaledi said the department had consulted with their control movement system.
“Our movement control system indicated the last time the Bushiris went officially through any port of entry was on January 19, 2019, when they entered South African through OR Tambo International Airport.
“After January 19, 2019, there is no movement that indicates any of the Bushiris went through any of our ports,” he said.