Citizen Reporter
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3 minute read
25 Jul 2022
6:18 pm

Bushiri extradition: Judgment on witness testimonies to be heard next month

Citizen Reporter

The Bushiris are wanted in connection with a fraud and money laundering case to the alleged tune of R102 million.

Shepard Bushiri, his wife Mary and their co-accused Landiwe Ntlokwana appeared for their formal bail application at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on 26 October 2020. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says a judgment on the witnesses in the extradition hearing of Shepherd Bushiri is expected to be delivered in August.

Malawi received the formal extradition request for the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader and his wife, Mary, from the South African government on 5 December.

The Bushiris are wanted in connection with a fraud and money laundering case to the alleged tune of R102 million.

The couple fled to Malawi just a few days after they were granted bail of R200,000 each – under strict conditions – in the Pretoria Central Magistrate’s Court.

SADC protocol

The government’s extradition request was submitted in terms of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol, with the hearing then proceeding in the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court in Malawi.

Lamola on Monday briefed the media regarding high-profile extradition cases, with the minister confirming the the Malawian court had decided to prosecute the Bushiris.

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“On 19 April 2021, the attorneys acting on behalf of the Bushiris argued in court that South Africa could not rely on the SADC Protocol on Extradition as the protocol has not been domesticated in accordance with section 211 of the Republic of Malawi’s Constitution.

“The court ruled that even though the protocol had not yet been domesticated, that Malawi’s Extradition Act clearly demonstrates in the First Schedule to that Act that South Africa is a designated country for purposes of extradition, and therefore ruled in favour of the prosecution,” he said during the press conference.

Witnesses

The case, Lamola explained, was then postponed matter to 4 June 2021 in order for the extradition hearing to start.

“During the proceedings, the defence argued that the witnesses who would testify against the Bushiris in South Africa should travel to Malawi to give evidence during the extradition proceedings.

“The Magistrate’s Court ruled in favour of the defence that the witnesses should travel to Malawi,” he said.

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However, a review application – which was heard on 21 July 2021 – was filed to set aside the ruling allowing witnesses.

“The DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] in Malawi advised the Department [of Justice] that they are of the view that the Magistrate’s Court misdirected itself as regards what amounts to a preliminary inquiry, and that Section 9 of the Extradition Act of Malawi never envisaged physical presence of witnesses in court during an extradition hearing.

“The office of the DPP in Malawi filed a review application to review and set aside the Magistrate’s Court’s ruling. The DPP in Malawi indicated that judgment was delivered on 8 February 2022.

“The court ruled in favour of the presiding magistrate and indicated that the extradition hearing in Malawi will be heard in the same fashion as a criminal trial, and that evidence may be heard in the form of sworn affidavits or by way of virtual or physical testimony,” Lamola further said.

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The minister confirmed that the Malawian authorities indicated that they would inform the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) “when witness statements or virtual testimony would be necessary”.

“On 17 June 2022, the Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court sitting at Lilongwe, heard the state’s application for an order of the court to refer the matter to the High Court where the state seeks to ask the High Court the witness depositions on behalf of South Africa must be made before a competent court in South Africa, judgment is reserved for 5 August 2022,” Lamola concluded.