Bushiris’ extradition tests Malawi’s commitment to fight corruption

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THE extradition of self-proclaimed Malawian prophet Shepherd Bushiri, who is accused of money laundering in South Africa, is a test of Malawi’s commitment to anti-corruption, said Transparency International.

According to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released last week, Malawi scored 30, dropping by seven points since 2012.

The global anti-corruption body said a recent government audit revealed public sector corruption of astronomical proportions, with an estimated $1 billion (R15bn) allegedly stolen by the previous government.

‘In addition, the extradition of a high-profile Malawian pastor accused of money laundering in South Africa may be another test of the country’s commitment to anti-corruption,’ its report read.

The charismatic preacher and his wife, Mary, are wanted in South Africa on fraud and money-laundering charges related to an investment scheme valued at about R104 million (about $7 million).

The couple were arrested in South Africa, but after being granted bail, they fled to Malawi, claiming they were not safe in the country. As part of their bail conditions, they were only allowed to travel in South Africa’s Gauteng and North West provinces until the case was finalised. The couple own a hotel in Rustenburg in North West. Their formal extradition hearing will be heard in a Lilongwe court on March 8.

Malawi is known for the 2013 cash-gate scandal involving high levels of public sector corruption and misappropriation of funds and the country continues to grapple with corruption.

According to media reports, the scandal involved a computer-based financial information storage system, where government officials allegedly exploited a loophole in the system to divert millions from government coffers. It was estimated that up to $250 million (R3.75bn) was lost through alleged fraudulent payments to businessmen for services not rendered.

Transparency International also flagged Zambia as showing a significant decline on the CPI, dropping five points since 2013 to score 33. The anti-corruption body stated in its 2019 report that nearly one in five Zambian citizens paid bribes to receive services such as health care or education.

The country allegedly awarded a $17 million (R255m) contract for the supply of health centre kits to a company which did not exist at the time of the contract. According to Zambian media reports, the contract was signed on November 22, 2019.

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