Police in Malawi have confirmed that they have arrested leader of Enlightened Christian Gathering church and self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary.
This comes after they handed themselves over to the police in Lilongwe on Wednesday morning.
Malawi police public relations officer James Kadadzera says the arrest of the couple is in response to a warrant of arrest that Interpol issued after the Bushiris fled South Africa and contravened their bail conditions.
He says the police launched a manhunt for the couple but when the Bushiris became aware of their impending arrest they handed themselves over.
Kadadzera says their affidavits will be taken and they will then appear in court in Malawi. Meanwhile, Malawi’s law allows for the extradition of accused persons to another country.
However, this only happens after authorities establish that the persons face extraditable charges.

While Malawi is party to the SADC Protocols on Extradition, its local laws still apply.

The Bushiris stand accused of fraud and money laundering and it must be determined if these charges constitute extraditable offences under Malawian law.

Malawi’s Extradition Act says that processes will begin at the lower Magistrate court with expectations of appeals and the like before a higher court can make the final decision.

Bushiri has denied the allegations and is expected to argue that he didn’t commit the said crimes. The legal process can take several years.

Shepherd Bushiri hands himself over to Malawi police:

Who are the Bushiris?

The Bushiris have stirred controversy for their flamboyant wealth and have been criticised for portraying false prophecy among other notorious spiritual leaders with mass followings.

Wealth and church empire:

The Bushiris have a major religious following in South Africa, being charismatic leaders who often claim to have spiritual healing powers.

Shepherd Bushiri’s church hosts a popular crossover service on New Years’ Eve annually at the FNB Stadium which tens of thousands of followers attend.

The Bushiris own a collection of luxury cars worth millions, which include a Bentley Bentayga, Aston Martin One-77 and Rolls Royce Black Badge. The couple also own a R5.5 million property at the Midstream Estate in Centurion and at least one private jet.

Controversies:

Bushiri has claimed to be a prophet with healing powers, saying he changed the fortunes of the impoverished, has cured people of HIV and made the blind see.

In 2017, social media users criticized the church leader when ticket prices to his “exclusive” gala dinner ranged between R1 000 and R25 000.

The Bushiris were arrested, among two others, in October on charges of fraud, money laundering and theft worth more than R102 million.

Earlier this month, the couple was ordered to hand over the title deed of their Midstream Estate home to the State. The Bushiris forfeited their passports and were banned from travelling outside South Africa.

Following their escape to Malawi, South African police have warned the couple to present themselves to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Thursday or risk forfeiting their Midstream Estate property.

On Sunday, the South African government said that it had initiated the extradition process for Malawi to hand him over. -Additional reporting Sesona Mahlahla.