The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) operating under the banner Malawi Black Economic Empowerment Movement (Mablem) have come gun blazing in defense of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and wife, Mary, calling on government to stand up for the power couple not to be extradited and face prosecution in South Africa where they are facing money laundering and fraud charges.
The CSOs including the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) held the news conference at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe that Malawi Government should not be coerced to any extradition request before Bushiri's security concerns are resolved.
HRCC chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba told reporters that Bushiri, the leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church should be given a chance for a fair trial.
They say that Malawi Government should not be coerced to any extradition request before Bushiri's security concerns are resolved. They say the Prophet should be given a chance for a fair trial.
"As Civil Society Movement, we have analyzed and understood Prophet Shepherd Bushiri's decision to return to Malawi as he faced numerous threats and attempts on his life as presented.
"The allegations and threats on Bushiri, must not be taken lightly especially in country which has got one of the highest crime rates in the world. We strongly believe there can never be a trial of Bushiri in his absence we need him alive to answer the charges and justice be seen to be delivered," said Mkwezalamba.
The CSO have since called on South African Government not to twist issues and change the whole persecution towards his movement from South Africa, but rather address issues that would ensure safety of the Bushiri's and their right to a fair and just trial is not violated.
"Failure by the South Africa Government to investigate and address the complaints raised by Bushiri and subsequent complaints on the same from civil and human rights activists from Malawi, renders the whole justice process unfair and unfavorable for the Bushiri's and does not guarantee safety and rights of the same and might lead to an impartial trial in South Africa."
Meanwhile, Malawi police service arrested Bushiri and his wife, on Wednesday after they handed themselves over to the police at Area 30 when they got wind of their impending arrest following arrest warrant by South Africa to kickoff extradition process.
"The Malawi police service has arrested prophet Shepherd Huxley Bushiri and Mrs Mary Bushiri. This is in response to a warrant of arrest issued by Interpol Pretoria on November 16'" senior superintendent James Kadadzera the Malawi police spokesman said in a statement.
He said the police had launched a manhunt for the couple on Tuesday.
Rainbow Television Malawi , which is owned by Bushiri, reported on Wednesday that Malawian police officers raided the fugitive's home in Lilongwe and took the couple into custody.
Police said the couple will be taken to court.
Bushiri's spokesman, Ephraim Nyondo, denied the couple's arrest was sparked by the warrant.
He said Bushiri had vowed to present himself to the Malawi police to demonstrate "commitment that he is not a fugitive."
"He is in Malawi to seek justice, which he believes he cannot be accorded in South Africa," Nyondo said.
Bushiri and his wife were arrested in South Africa on fraud and money laundering charges and appeared in court last month for alleged financial misdeeds amounting to 102 million rand ($6.6 million). They were granted bail of 200,000 rand each on November 4 and handed in their passports so they couldn't leave the country, but Bushiri issued a statement 10 days later saying the couple were in Malawi.
Their escape coincided with a working visit by Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera to South Africa, raising suspicions that his delegation had helped the pair.
While South African authorities said they'd established the couple didn't travel on Chakwera's flight home on November 13, the Malawian government complained in a statement on Twitter that its President had been improperly treated.
The South African authorities, which are grappling to establish how he left the country, have initiated legal proceedings to secure his extradition in terms of the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Extradition and other legal instruments, to which Malawi is a signatory.