South African Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has dismissed as untrue reports that Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera was treated badly in South Africa over Shepherd Bushiri’s escape.
Speaking before a Parliamentary Committee which is seeking an explanation over the escape of fugitive prophet Shepherd Bushiri, Motsoaledi said that Chakwera was not searched and that the delay was caused by the Malawian team which was insisting that they use Waterkloof Airforce base in South Africa.
“Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera came with a team of 23 people. However, upon return he wanted to go back with a team of over 60 people,” said Motsoaledi.
Motsoaledi said that the addition to Chakwera’s entourage raised suspicions and faced resistance from authorities in South Africa.
“Our team demanded that those who had come through Waterkloof should be the ones departing from it,” he said.
The other members on Chakwera’s entourage were part of the advance team that went to South Africa days before Chakwera arrived in the rainbow nation on Thursday, 12 November. They included Foreign Affairs Minister Eisenhower Mkaka who has been alleged to have met with Bushiri in South Africa on Wednesday in Pretoria.
At the time that the advance team was being stopped from boarding via the Airforce Base, it was not yet known that Bushiri had bolted, said Motsoaledi.
It was while they were negotiating over the terms of boarding that it came to the knowledge of the South African police that the Bushiris were nowhere to be found. The police then made a dash for the Airforce Base where they found the Malawian entourage and demanded to perform a search on them.
“Each and every person who had to board from Waterkloof, except Chakwera and his wife, had their face matched to that in the passport before boarding. The rest were instructed by the South African government to go to OR Tambo where they would board the flight. This was procedure. It was not a suggestion from the Malawi government as some media reports are suggesting,” said Motsoaledi to the Committee.
Presidential Plane searched
The minister confirmed that after Chakwera had boarded the plane, it was also thoroughly searched just to make sure that the fugitive prophet was not on it. The plane was then left to go to OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg where the advance team was to be collected.
According to Motsoaledi, all the time that the delays were taking place, Chakwera was not in the aircraft as he and his wife were the last to board the plane.
He further said that at OR Tambo, none of the Malawian delegation was strip-searched as some reports claim.
“They went through a routine search procedure in which we verified that the faces matched the ones in the passport,” he said.
He further said that as they were a high-ranking delegation, they were treated as VIP officials.
Minister acted strangely
Meanwhile reports have suggested that Malawi’s foreign affairs minister Eisenhower Mkaka behaved strangely at Waterkloof Airforce base when he was told that he could not board the plane from there.
According to a South African newspaper, Daily Maverick, the minister “was literally spitting fire as if he was planning something that didn’t work out.”
According to other unconfirmed reports, Mkaka met with the fugitive days before Chakwera’s arrival in South Africa. When asked on Bushiri, Mkaka told BBC that it was the responsibility of Malawi to protect its citizens.