The Justice and Correctional Services Ministry on Friday confirmed that had issued a formal extradition request to the Malawi government for Shepherd and Mary Bushiri.
The request was issued in line with the SADC extradition agreement, which includes South Africa and Malawi, and was sent through the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol).
“As previously indicated the law provides for this extradition request to be submitted within 30 days, however, this extradition request is been brought within a period of two weeks,” a statement by the Justice and Correctional Services Department read.
Bushiri faces five warrants of arrest in South Africa, while Mary has two. The Enlightened Christian Gathering Church leader is facing additional warrants for three rape cases. Church members are accusing him of s.e.xual harassment in 2018.
The couple fled to their home country of Malawi earlier in November, violating their bail conditions in South Africa where they are accused of fraud, theft, and money laundering. The Bushiris’ R5.5 million mansion in Centurion was then forfeited to the state, but this has not deterred them nor dented their pockets while they continue to offer religious services to their legion of fans online.
Given our sound and healthy diplomatic, strategic and political relationship, and our common citizenship of the SADC Community, we are convinced that the Republic of Malawi will honour the letter and spirit of every provision of their International and regional obligations” said Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola through the statement.
Two weeks ago, South Africa applied for the provisional arrest of the Bushiris in Malawi. But they handed themselves over to Malawian authorities, which is different from them being arrested. The provisional arrest was appealed by the pair.
“We are closely monitoring appeal processes by the Malawian authorities,” the statement read further.
How extradition is meant to work
Meanwhile, lawyers with experience in extradition processes told Eyewitness News a week ago that it could take, on average, up to two years before the couple set foot on South African soil, especially if they were refusing to stand trial here. The appeal process for the extradition is well within their rights.
Here is how an extradition process is supposed to work, according to the experts:
- South Africa has to give the Malawian government an extradition pack.
- It consists of two bundles of documents – one to identify who the Bushiris are and the second a clear identification of the charges they face in South Africa.
- The charges need to be clear so that the Malawian court can understand.
- Then it is up to the Malawian government to make sure that justice is done in Malawi.
- An inquiry in Malawi must then decide if he is liable for extradition.
- He can appeal all of these processes.
But these are only the criminal sides of the matter. The legal experts warned that this matter was highly politicized and was expected to have many layers to the process.