South Africa and Malawi Quarrel Over Fate of Shepherd Bushiri, a Fugitive Preacher

“Our coming to Malawi, hence, is a tactical withdrawal from the Republic of South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives,” he said. His spokesman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Bushiris had been released on bail this month after a hearing in which supporters chanted and prayed outside the courtroom. Bail conditions included remaining in Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg, where they live, and handing over five passports they each have, according to Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s home affairs minister, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday.

Still, without a single passport in his possession, Mr. Bushiri turned up in his home country of Malawi last weekend, and from there launched an online tirade against South African officials.

The Bushiri affair has now reached the highest levels of government in both countries. On Tuesday, lawmakers in the South African Parliament grilled Mr. Motsoaledi, the minister of home affairs, about the lapses — or, as one suggested, the complicity — that had allowed the flamboyant pastor to flee, saying the blunder exposed flaws in national security.

In Malawi, members of the government were angry that South African officials seemed to suspect that the entourage of Malawian president, Lazarus Chakwera, had been trying to smuggle the pastor out of South Africa last weekend on a plane belonging to the president’s entourage. The Malawian government released a statement complaining that the presidential entourage was held up for hours at the airport in South Africa.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bushiri and his wife handed themselves in to a police station in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. A police statement, referring to Mr. Bushiri as “the Prophet,” said the pastor and his wife would be interviewed and would then face “a competent court of law in accordance with the prescriptions of law.” After detaining the Bushiris for one night, the authorities released the couple on bail, without requiring them to post a bond.

Monica Mark – NYT > World > Africa

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