By Daphine Zulu
The extradition request for Shepherd Bushiri by South African authorities to the Malawian government early last week seems to be a sobering reminder for the greater good of cooperation within the region with regards to extradition cases.
Insofar as Bushiri and wife violated their bail conditions in South Africa and have to face trial in South Africa for their transgressions, the self-proclaimed prophet has long complained of unfair trial from the South African authorities.
Bushiri’s case - for the neutrals - presents a near perfect stage for Southern African Development Community (SADC) to iron out niggling creases relating to extradition cases.
The South African authorities were irked to discover that the Bushiris left the county and were back in their homeland Malawi, a bitter pill to swallow.
This self-righteous couple fled from SA amid an ongoing case in which they are accused along with three others for fraud and money laundering worth R102 million.
This was just two weeks after the duo had been granted R200 000 bail by the Pretoria Central Magistrates’ Court. And among their bail conditions, they were to report to their nearest police station every Monday and Friday; and certainly never to leave the country.
The prospect of reporting to the police twice a week indicates the magnitude of the case to the South African authorities. But as many would imagine, Bushiri’s nicodemous escape to Malawi seems difficult to stomach for the Hawks.
Whether it was a matter of corruption, bribery or that Bushiri used his powerful links to skip South Africa to Malawi, is a case for another day.
It is beyond a shadow of doubt that the Bushiris violated their bail conditions and certainly have a case to answer. However, SA’s condescending conduct with the Malawian Government is deplorable to say the least.
It could be an unpalatable proposition to many, but South Africa seems heavily convinced to be the best practise of democracy in the region. It appears to be such an overly wild conviction that affords them the misplaced audacity to veto extradition requests from other states from the SADC bloc.
In most instances, South African authorities would ostensibly need assurances that the extradition cases would not be politically motivated and that the persons to be extradited would face fair trial in the court of law.
SA’s lackadaisical approach to action extradition request has also sparked heated reactions across the Southern African Development Community (SADC), opening Pandora’s Box pertaining to the general handling of the requests of that nature.
In the first instance, the fact that SA authorities were of the persuasion that the Malawian government could have aided Bushiri’s escape is but a misguided proposition to any level headed person.
Already this might have a bearing effect on the couple’s extradition request by SA authorities to the Malawian government. Imagine having a whole President’s flight being delayed by at least six hours, for searches to be conducted, but again in vain! Nothing came from the search.
The Bushiris’ case has raised many eyebrows on how it will be handled.
Since Malawi is signatory to SADC extradition protocols which states that a state requesting to extradite needs to submit supporting documents and state the offences the person it seeks has committed.
With Zimbabwe having closely knit relations with SA, the former requested South African cooperation for the extradition of G40 fugitives who had likewise skipped the country to evade prosecution. But somehow, SA turned out to sympathise with them as they ignored the request instead continued to harbour them till this day.
The likes of Saviour Kasukuwere, Walter Mzembi, and Patrick Zhuwao have since found refuge in South Africa without question, instead getting to enjoy freebies from sympathising opposition parties in SA.
Well, this could be shelved for another day but SA also took years to extradite Mozambican’s most wanted criminal as the case had to go through their judiciary whilst Mozambican authorities waited patiently for at least two years in the case involving Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang from 2018 to 2020! According to Arian Frey, on 30 October 2020, “The South African justice minister has begun to consider the decision to extradite Mozambique’s finance minister…”
However, the swift actioning of extradition cases between other member states could be something that the SA government could emulate.
For instance, the Zambian authorities’ swift actioning of the extradition of Tendai Biti after he had fled to Zambia following the August 1 fracas in Zimbabwe attests to the point that regional cooperation is possible if principle is placed above expediency.
To conclude, it could be a bit harsh to suggest that what is sauce for the gander is also sauce to the goose, but it would be immense cowardice not to remind South Africa of the greater good of cooperating with other states.