Malawi has faulted South Africa for failing to admit that President Lazarus Chakwera was improperly treated and that his delegation was subjected to unreasonable security checks before departure in South Africa on Friday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malawi has said this in a statement today in reaction to South African Government’s statement exonerating Chakwera from allegations that he aided Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and wife Mary to escape South Africa.
The government of South Africa said on Sunday that Department of Home Affairs’ immigration officials verified the identities of all passengers on Chakwera’s planbe and Mr and Ms Bushiri were not on the flight.
But the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has suggested that the South African Government should have apologized.
“Notwithstanding, the Government of Malawi notes with concern that the statement falls short of acknowledging that the treatment President Chakwera was subjected to upon his departure is improper and incongruous to the warm hospitality he received upon arrival,” reads part of the statement.
Chakwera and First Lady Monica Chakwera went to South Africa on Thursday where the Malawi leader met South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.
They were scheduled to leave South Africa on a chartered plane at 15:30 Hrs on Friday but were delayed for seven hours and ended up departing at 22:30 Hrs.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malawi, South African Authorities did not want Chakwera’s advance delegation to travel back home together with Chakwera due to unspecified security reasons. This happened even though the South African Government was earlier informed of the arrangement.
Chakwera then decided that he would not depart South Africa without the advance team.
The Malawi delegation proposed that Chakwera and his delegation should leave Pretoria using their plane which had landed at Pretoria Waterkloof Military base and the advance team should be picked up en route from OR Tambo Airport. The South African government initially rejected the proposal but accepted it after six hours of impasse.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Malawi delegation’s dissatisfaction with South Africa’s security concerns were justified because Chakwera’s plane was parked at a military base which is highly guarded and at the time the Malawi advance team was being barred from boarding the plane, their bags and passports had already been checked by police officers and not immigration officers.
The luggage of the Malawians was loaded onto the plane by military police officers and there were dozens of military officers on the ground who inspected the cargo as well as every passenger upon entry.
“The Malawi delegation complied with all these security measures out of deference to the vague security concerns of the South African authorities, despite the fact that the manner in which they were conducted and the delay they caused breached diplomatic protocols commensurate with the dignity of President Chakwera’s office and person.
“As such the Malawi delegation was justified to dismiss as unacceptable and unsatisfactory the South African authorities’ use of unspecified security reasons to hinder President Chakwera from leaving with his advance team.
“Even after agreeing to let the advance team board the plane at OR Tambo International Airport, the South African authorities subjected the team to additional checks before and after boarding the plane, again without giving any specific security reasons. In fact, to date those security reasons have not been communicated through formal channels,” the ministry says in its statement.
Hours before Chakwera and his delegation were ill-treated, Bushiri, the Malawian prophet, and his wife Mary had failed to report to a South African police station as part of the bail conditions for the two who are answering money laundering charges in South Africa.
The South African police learned on Saturday that Bushiri had fled to Malawi. Bushiri reportedly fled on Wednesday last week before revealing his escape on Saturday through a press statement.