Tito Mboweni: How did Bushiri escape and make us look so bad?
Finance minister Tito Mboweni has responded with surprise and anger to reports about controversial prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary fleeing the country last week while out on bail.
The pair failed to report to a police station on Friday, as per their bail conditions, and in a statement on Saturday confirmed they had left the country. They claimed they had fled to preserve their lives after local authorities failed to act on several alleged death threats they had received.
They made several demands of the government before they return to SA.
Mboweni, like many others on social media, was shocked by claims the escape may have something to do with the arrival of Malawi's president Lazarus Chakwera, who flew to SA on Thursday for a brief meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday.
A senior government official told the Sunday Times the possibility of Chakwera's involvement could not be ruled out, considering his close relationship with Bushiri.
Chakwera's spokesperson Brian Banda and SA's acting presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale both denied the claims.
LISTEN | Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary get bail of R200,000 each
A whole Head of State smuggling a fugitive from justice? Tell me it’s fake news. Unbelievable! Must be fake. Has to be. People must not spread fake news.— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) November 14, 2020
When he was criticised for his tweet, Mboweni went on the defensive, claiming the escape had made SA “look bad”.
Don’t try tell me what to say or not say. This is a democracy. Hayibo! Why do you want me to delete my tweet about a fugitive from South African justice? How did he escape and make us look so bad?— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) November 14, 2020
He said a fugitive could not make demands of the government, and later said he agreed with the sentiment that authorities in SA were “too nice”
A fugitive from justice cannot make demands to the law enforcement authorities. What nonsense is this?— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) November 15, 2020
One old man in Alexandra Township once called me aside during a meeting and said to me: babu Mboweni, tighten the state hand. It is a bit soft and nice. Squeeze! Let everybody feel the presence of state power and force. I agree with the old man. We are too nice!— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) November 14, 2020
In a statement on Sunday, the government said SA had initiated a process to secure the extradition of the couple.
Bushiri and his wife were arrested last month and face charges of theft, money laundering and fraud in connection with an alleged R100m “investment scheme”.