Preacher fled to South Africa in front of fraud case

Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary were granted bail in early November

A famous Christian preacher gave up bail in South Africa and fled the country.

Shepherd Bushiri, who previously said he wanted to clear his name, has now returned to his home country of Malawi with his wife Maryam.

He was released on bail earlier this month on charges of fraud and money laundering.

He said there were attempts on his life and he accused the South African authorities of not giving him protection.

Mr. Bushiri, speaking to supporters on social media on Saturday, described his decision to drop bail as “a strategic retreat to save lives”.

Observers fear that the issue could lead to a diplomatic dispute between Malawi and South Africa – as Mr Bushry and his wife have managed to leave.

Allegations were made that Mr Bushry had fled with President Lazarus Chakvera on Malawi’s presidential jet – something that was denied by both Mr Chakvera’s office and South African officials.

Questions are also being raised on whether the two countries will cooperate in bringing the couple back to South Africa.

The South African government announced on Sunday that they had begun the process to bring back the couple from Malawi, to ensure that the two fugitives get justice.

The statement mentions that Malawi and South Africa have already promised to send fugitives to each other as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on extradition.

But when Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Eisenhower Macaca was first asked, he would not be drawn to the issue.

He told the BBC’s Noma Maseko that it is the duty of the government to protect all Malawians, but added that President Chakera is a staunch supporter of the rule of law and all diplomatic channels will remain open.

Who is Shepherd’s Bushry?

Controversial millionaire preacher Mr. Bushry is known as one of Africa’s wealthiest religious leaders.

He says that he has cured people of HIV, blinded them, changed the fortunes of the poor and, on at least one occasion, appeared to walk in the air.

He grew up in Majuzu, a city in northern Malawi and moved to Pretoria, South Africa where he leads his church – the Enlightened Christian Assembly.

He is so popular that he is known to fill sports stadiums with followers.

But he was also accused of being desperate to improve his life, hunting poor people, selling goods including “miracle oil”.

Authorities in Botswana closed her church, as it was claimed that the money could not be called anything, which violated financial rules.

Who is he accusing?

Mr. Bushrey is accused of money laundering and fraud with his wife and two others.

Crime investigators say the case involves 102 million South Africa rand ($ 6.6m; £ 5m).

How far is his case?

He appeared in Pretoria’s Magistrate Court on 21 October to hear the charges and was granted bail on 4 November.

The trial is expected to begin in May.

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