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Newspapers didn’t report that Malawi’s president helped fugitive Bushiris escape South Africa

On 15 November 2020 news emerged that self-styled prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary Bushiri had skipped bail in South Africa and escaped to Malawi.

The Bushiris were arrested in February 2019 on charges of fraud and money laundering.

Two days after they fled, the front pages of two Malawian dailies – the Nation and the Daily Times – were posted on Twitter with the claim that the country’s president Lazarus Chakwera had helped the couple escape.

The tweet reads: “The Malawian newspapers are telling it as it is. The President smuggled Bushiri out of SA.” It’s been retweeted more than 740 times.

In the tweet, the Nation’s front page headline for 17 November is: “Chakwera cover-up Bushiri smuggling”. The Daily Times edition for the same day reads: “Hiding a fugitive! Chakwera to meet Bushiri in Chikoko Bay.”

Did the two newspapers really report that Chakwera had smuggled the Bushiris into Malawi? We checked.


‘No interference’

The Nation posted the front page of its 17 November edition on Facebook, and it tells a different story. The real headline is: “Chakwera SA delay infuriates Malawi.”

Sellina Kainja, a digital editor at the paper, tweeted the fake and real front pages side by side.

The Daily Times also posted its front page for 17 November on Facebook. The headline reads: “No interference. Chakwera sees Bushiri matter as legal.”

The two genuine front pages were also posted in a reply to the original tweet.

The newspaper headlines were photoshopped. 


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