Th e Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court has dismissed the State’s application to have South African witnesses, in the extradition case of Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary.
In his ruling yesterday, chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa said the witnesses should testify physically because the reasons for not bringing them in were speculative and lacked legal basis. He said being a lower court, it cannot make decisions outside its jurisdiction.
He said: “There are certain procedures that the witnesses will be required to perform like swearing under oath before the magistrate and the two fugitive offenders. It is important that they should sign their deposition which they can’t do while in South Africa.”
The hearing delayed by almost one and a half hours and when it started at around 11AM, Chirwa adjourned it briefly due to noise outside the court from Bushiris’ sympathisers.
The court premises were filled with Bushiris sympathisers who sang anti-extradition songs but were stopped by ECG church officials for the hearing to proceed.
When the hearing resumed about five minutes later, Chirwa ruled that the court had dismissed the State’s application and adjourned the case indefinitely to allow the State bring in the witnesses from South Africa.
However, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Steven Kayuni rose and proposed that the court should give the State six weeks and the court set between July 12 and 16 2021 for preliminary examination of the witnesses.
After adjournment, the DPP said the State respects court orders so it will arrange for the South African witnesses to come by the set dates.
On his part, the Bushiris lawyer Wapona Kita said the defence is ready to cross-examine the witnesses any day they come to Malawi.
In a previous appearance on June 4 2021, the State through Kayuni said there are 10 witnesses to be paraded but they could not come to testify physically due to Covid-19, ages of some, logistical costs and unavailability of flights due to the pandemic, among others.
He said: “Bringing in the witnesses requires a lot of logistics such as transport and accommodation, and some witnesses are old so they are vulnerable to Covid-19.”
But Kita argued that Covid-19 cannot be used as an excuse since the case was filed during the pandemic.
“The 1972 extradition agreement between Malawi and South Africa states clearly that the party that makes a request for extradition meets all expenses so the witnesses will not spend anything,” he said.
The South African Government wants the Bushiris extradited to answer charges of fraud and money laundering in South Africa.