Bushiris' escape: From alleged ‘presidential help’ to more questions for ministers
Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri continues to be a talking point among politicians and government officials after a report by the Sunday Independent claimed he and wife Mary were smuggled out of SA in Malawian president Lazarus Chakwera's hired jet.
Chakwera arrived in SA earlier this month for a brief meeting with president Cyril Ramaphosa.
The report cited various officials from the security cluster, with some sources allegedly saying the Bushiris “were given diplomatic passports bearing decoy names” and were “applied with cosmetic facial changes”.
They were reportedly fetched from their Centurion home in a Malawian embassy vehicle while Chakwera wrapped up his meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
City Press on Sunday also revealed that before escaping last week, the police discovered that the Bushiris had made at least 20,000 transactions from their business and personal accounts.
Here's what has been said about their escape so far:
Naledi Pandor denies report
The minister of international relations & co-operation Naledi Pandor on Sunday denied that her department had any involvement in helping the Bushiris escape. The minister said she was concerned that she was not asked for comment, and demanded the retraction of the article.
“Officials in Dirco work diligently and are entitled to do so without having their reputations tarnished by unnamed sources that hide in the shadows. It is concerning that Dirco was not afforded an opportunity to respond to these serious allegations by the newspaper concerned.
“Minister Pandor invites the newspaper to issue an immediate retraction of the wholly false suggestion that she intervened in this matter. To that end, the department will be seeking legal advice,” said Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor has noted the Headlines and accompanying story in the Sunday Independent relating to the Bushiri matter.— DIRCO South Africa (@DIRCO_ZA) November 22, 2020
DA wants answers
The official opposition on Sunday said it wants home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi to appear before parliament for a second time to provide answers regarding the couple's escape. The DA wants the minister to provide parliament with CCTV footage from the Waterkloof Air Force Base of the hours leading up to the couple's escape.
Citing the Sunday Independent report, the DA said claims that the Bushiris received assistance from the SA and Malawian governments should not be ignored.
“The seriousness of this situation cannot be overlooked, especially since this is not the first time an incident of this nature has happened. In 2015, Omar al-Bashir skipped the country, despite facing charges of war crimes. And in 2017, former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe fled SA despite facing criminal charges over allegedly assaulting a model in a Johannesburg hotel,” the party said in a statement.
Last week, Sunday Times reported that Chakwera's flight was delayed for seven hours, which raised questions about whether this had anything to do with the couple's escape.
A senior government official said there were suspicions that Chakwera had used his visit to Ramaphosa to smuggle the Bushiris out of the country. He said the possibility of his involvement could not be ruled out as Bushiri was said to have funded Chakwera's presidential campaign.
The official alleged that one of Chakwera's delegates called Dirco, saying they had “challenges leaving”. He said an official may have helped them, not knowing that they were smuggling the couple out of SA.
SA government denials
Acting presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale denied that the Bushiris left with Chakwera. He also said that the controversial church leader was not discussed in the meeting between the two presidents.
Motsoaledi last week assured MPs that the Bushiris did not escape in Chakwera's plane.
“The passports were matched with the photos and faces of the members who were there and they went into the plane. Before the plane departed, it was definitely searched for the second time. Having convinced themselves there was no sign of Mr and Mrs Bushiri, the plane was allowed to depart,” he said.