A warrant of arrest has been issued by South African authorities for controversial millionaire pastor Shepard Bushiri and his wife who skipped bail and returned to their native Malawi over the weekend. 

Bushiri had been given bail and was awaiting trial for money laundering and fraud in South Africa.

It is not clear how or when Mr Bushiri left South Africa.

He only told his social media followers that he had left South Africa because he had received death threats on Saturday.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Bushiri refused to reveal how he escaped.

But the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, reports that one possibility being considered is that he and his wife Mary were smuggled out by a sophisticated syndicate which specialises in taking stolen cars from South Africa to Malawi.

Prophet Bushiri & Wife
Prophet Bushiri & Wife

There have also been suggestions in the South African press that he was smuggled out in Malawi’s presidential jet – something which has been denied by the authorities in both countries.

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera was in South Africa on a state visit last week, and there has been speculation in South Africa that a member of his entourage had aided Mr Bushiri’s escape.

This has been denied by officials in both Malawi and South Africa, but a diplomatic row is brewing.

Malawi’s foreign minister told the BBC that he thought the South African authorities suspected the Malawians were trying to smuggle out the controversial preacher.

“When we were coming to Malawi leaving South Africa, we were exposed to stringent checks. It is just now that we are beginning to realise that maybe there was a suspicion that we were trying to smuggle Bushiri out of South Africa,” Malawi’s foreign minister Eisenhower Mkaka told the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko on Saturday.

On Monday morning he then complained, very publicly, on Twitter about the seven-hour delay to the president’s journey, which included “vague security reasons” for thorough checks of the presidential plane.

He noted that the South African authorities had categorically stated that Mr Bushiri had not escaped on the presidential plane.

But he described South Africa’s treatment of President Chakwera as “improper”.

You can see the full statement by the Malawi Foreign Minister here.

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