They searched and searched, luggage to luggage but they couldn’t find the luggage with Bushiri’s name. But there were people, with diplomatic passports, who looked like them. The face does not fit this one of Bushiri but the height and eyes do somehow look the same.
Fugitive prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, were issued with diplomatic passports bearing decoy names and applied with cosmetic facial changes before being smuggled out of South Africa in Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera’s hired jet, sources said.
Several insiders in the government’s security cluster – including diplomatic and military intelligence sources, police officers, and bureaucrats – told the Sunday Independent this week that Bushiri left in Chakwera’s plane last Friday following an operation planned by Malawian intelligence officials and executed by its embassy in Pretoria.
They said Bushiri and his wife were fetched from their home in Centurion in a Malawian embassy vehicle ahead of a scheduled 6pm flight as Chakwera wrapped up his meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
They were driven to Air Force Base Waterkloof as part of an elaborate plot that involved senior Malawian and South African politicians and government officials and the alleged exchange of money.
The plot, which kicked off with whisking off Bushiri’s children back to Malawi, was hatched three weeks ago after the prophet complained to Chakwera through embassy officials that he had abandoned him after campaigning for and funding his successful presidential bid.
Sources said the rattled Bushiri, who is the spiritual leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECGC), sought the Malawian government’s intervention after his lawyers told him he faced a minimum 15-year jail term because the National Prosecuting Authority had a strong case of fraud and money-laundering against him.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Tyrone Seale yesterday dismissed claims that the president worked with Chakwera to help Bushiri evade justice by arranging a decoy-state visit and allowing his ministers and officials to co-operate with the Malawians.
“There is no basis to that. And you would have seen in the week when the president gave interviews in which he said this was disappointing and he said that he had asked for a report to be prepared for him to give the background to what happened here,” Seale said.
“This visit was part of a solidarity tour that President Chakwera was undertaking around the region. It’s pretty similar to what our president did in 2018 when he went to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia to introduce himself to neighbouring leaders and to discuss relations between the countries.