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Bushiri’s legal team wants SA witnesses to be summoned to Malawi

The Bushiri's appear in Lilongwe Magistrates Court.

The Bushiri’s appear in Lilongwe Magistrates Court.

  • The Bushiri legal team argues that SA witnesses should be summoned to Malawi, arguing that it’s what the law requires.
  • The Malawi State has opposed this, arguing that “this is not a trial”.
  • The lower court will rule on issues raised in court on Monday.

Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary Bushiri’s legal team have argued during court proceedings that witnesses, whose statements appear in the extradition documents, should be summoned to Malawi.

The Malawian State however opposed this, stating that this was not a trial.

“The law, the way it’s cast in the extradition act is for the sole effect that it is the matter of preliminary inquiry, it is not  a trial, that is how the law is – we have argued that in court and it will be for the honourable court to make a decision,” Malawian Director of Public Prosecutions Steve Kayuni told the media after court proceedings.

The pair, who appeared in the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court on Monday, are wanted in South Africa in connection with fraud and money laundering, allegedly to the tune of R102 million.

They, however, fled the country to their homeland just a few days after the Pretoria Central Magistrate’s Court granted them bail of R200 000 each under strict conditions.

South Africa subsequently sent a formal extradition request, which was received by the Malawian government in December.

READ | Malawi receives formal extradition request from SA for Bushiris

The extradition hearing was supposed to begin and be finalised on 8 March but has been met with several delays.

During proceedings on Monday, the court heard several issues being raised by the defence, namely that witnesses, whose statements are included in the extradition documents, should be summoned to ensure a fair hearing, “if indeed they do exist”.

The court however heard from the State that this was not a trial and, therefore, it was not necessary to bring witnesses.

The State further argued that this would subject the Bushiris to two trials and that the documents sent by South Africa should be treated as evidence.

“They argued otherwise, but we believe that preliminary inquiry’s have specific way in which they are processed,” Kayuni said.

The court also heard arguments on other issues, like authenticity of documents, what is a preliminary inquiry, whether witnesses should be in court, and the legal instruments being used.

The court is expected to rule on the above issue on Monday 29 March.

During a previous court appearance, the court was asked to determine on the issue of whether the extradition matter involving the Bushiri’s should be treated as civil or criminal in nature.

On Monday, presiding Magistrate Patrick Chirwa ruled that the case would continue to be treated as a criminal case and that the State should provide the defence with the South African documents within the next seven days.

“That has a very [great] significance, because there is a difference between the criminal process vs the civil process and, with the way our justice system is, it is in such a way that a criminal matter is processed faster that a civil matter.

“Further to that, what are the issues before the court? If the issues have to deal with criminality, it is a criminal matter, if it has to do with civility of persons, then it is a civil matter. The issues before the honourable court, the court has already decided they have criminal elements,” Kayuni said.

When News24 approached Bushiri’s lawyer, Wapona Kita, for comment over their request for SA witnesses to be summoned to Malawi, Kita responded: “It’s what the law requires.”

The Bushiris return to court on Monday.

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