The government says fugitives from justice Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary did not leave SA aboard a flight carrying Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera and his delegation.
It also said SA has initiated a process to secure the extradition of the self-proclaimed prophet and his wife from Malawi.
The government made the statement on Sunday after reports that the couple had fled the country while they were expected to stand trial on allegations of fraud, theft, and money laundering involving R102m.
Bushiri and his wife did not report to the police station on Friday, as required in terms of their bail conditions.
There was speculation that Bushiri and his wife had left with the Malawian president on Friday. Chakwera was on an official visit to SA on Thursday and left the country on Friday.
Malawian presidency spokesperson Brian Banda dismissed suggestions that Chakwera had anything to do with the Bushiris fleeing SA.
Government communications and information systems director-general Phumla Williams said on Sunday that Chakwera and his delegation departed from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria.
She said the delegation stopped over at OR Tambo International Airport to collect additional officials who had travelled to SA earlier to prepare for the working visit.
“Department of home affairs immigration officials verified the identities of all passengers and Mr and Ms Bushiri were not on the flight,” Williams said.
She said when travellers are processed for departure, they are required to present themselves to an immigration officer who, among other checks, verifies that the passport belongs to the traveller.
“To ensure that the two fugitives face justice, SA has initiated a process to secure their extradition from Malawi in terms of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Protocol on Extradition and other legal instruments, to which Malawi is a signatory.
“While this process is under way, law-enforcement agencies will continue investigations into this matter,” Williams said.