International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Naledi Pandor, is calling on the Sunday Independent to retract the allegations that the South African and Malawi governments helped Sheperd Bushiri flee to his home country of Malawi.
The Minister says failure to do this will force the department to seek legal advice.
In the article, the newspaper alleges Enlightened Christian Gathering leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary were given diplomatic passports bearing fake names and disguises before escaping on a jet hired by Malawi president Lazarus Chakwera.
Pandor has rubbished the story as irresponsible journalism.
The Bushiris’ escape to Malawi sighting safety concerns:
In a statement, Pandor says such matters should be subject to full investigation by relevant authorities and not subject to speculation bordering along the lines of irresponsible journalism.
She says the publication did not afford her department a chance to respond to the allegations.
“Officials in DIRCO work diligently and are entitled to do so without having their reputations tarnished by unnamed sources that hide in the shadows. It is concerning that DIRCO was not afforded an opportunity to respond to these serious allegations by the newspaper concerned.”
Pandor says the matter remains under investigation.
“Government continues to investigate this matter and is working closely with the Government of the Republic of Malawi to achieve a resolution aimed at ensuring that the law of the Republic of South Africa is upheld.”
Fixing failures in local system could have avoided Bushiri escape:
Attempt to embarrass ministers
Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Director-General, Phumla Williams, says the article sought to embarrass Pandor and other ministers.
In a statement, Williams says the publication has no proof to substantiate its claims.
She says if the publication wanted to serve national interest, it should have reported the claims at the nearest police station.
“If this publication wishes to serve the national interest and ensure that justice is seen to be done, like any other citizen who observes a crime being committed, it is obliged to report such information to the nearest police station. In fact, Government encourages all South Africans who are in possession of information about crimes being committed to report that to law enforcement agencies regardless of the status of the person who committed such a crime.”
Williams has urged people to treat news on this matter with caution.
The Bushiris were out on a bail of R200 000 each at the time of their escape. The bail has since been revoked and the couple has had their property attached.
They face charges of fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to the value of R102 million.
SA government says the Bushiris did not leave with Malawian president: