The surprise return of self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri to his home in Malawi over the weekend, despite being on bail in South Africa on charges of fraud, has threatened to cause a diplomatic spat between the two countries.
Bushiri, a Malawian preacher who ran a Christian congregation in South Africa and is believed to be a multi-millionaire, announced on Saturday that he was back in Malawi, despite being ordered to remain in South Africa.
Malawian authorities on Sunday denied they had a hand in his return, while Bushiri said he was not fleeing prosecution, claiming he had left South Africa in fear for his life as “there have been clear and evident attempts to have myself, my wife and my family killed.”
There was speculation in South Africa media that Bushiri could have left the country on Malawian Prime Minister Lazarus Chakwera’s jet, after Chakwera visited the country last week.
“Bushiri never travelled with the presidential entourage,” Malawi’s Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda told dpa.
He added authorities are investigating to find out how the preacher entered Malawi and said it would be possible for Malawi to extradite Bushiri should Pretoria make a formal request.
The opposition Democratic Alliance are calling for an investigation of reports suggesting Bushiri managed to leave the country by bribing officials.
Bushiri has a large following of faithful who believe his claims to have performed miracles, like curing people of AIDS and raising the dead.
A natty dresser, he and his wife Mary were known for their lavish lifestyle before their arrest on fraud and money-laundering charges.
They were granted bail of 200,000 rand (13,000 dollars) earlier this month.