On 29 March 2021, during the hearing for the extradition case of the self-styled prophet Shepherd Bushiri, a court in Malawi ordered the South African government to ensure that witnesses to the case appear in Malawi.
Since then, there have been posts circulating on Facebook claiming that the South African government, through some of its security agencies, is tampering with witnesses.
One of these posts says: “The South African HAWKS Officials have started Recruiting innocent ECG people in South Africa to force them to be State witnesses to be sent to Malawi for the on-going Extradition case.”
The Hawks are the independent directorate for priority crime investigation within the South African police service. The Enlightened Christian Gathering or ECG is the church Bushiri leads.
Another post says: “Some of the names of the witnesses that are registered in the Extradition Case FILES against the Prophets Prophets of God are GHOSTS, meaning that they are not real people …”
Bushiri, alongside his wife, Mary, and two others, is accused of money laundering and fraud involving R102 million, or approximately US$6.6 million.
But do these Facebook claims really reflect what is happening in South Africa?
Authorities deny claims; no media coverage
Over WhatsApp, the spokesperson for the Hawks in South Africa declined to comment on the Facebook claims.
Similarly, a spokesperson in the ministry of justice in Malawi also declined to speak about the case.
“That seems to be something entirely in South Africa. As Malawi we can't comment on the issue. It's happening in South Africa,” said the justice ministry spokesperson.
However, the spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa told Africa Check, over WhatsApp, that “there is no truth whatsoever to the reports”.
We could find no coverage of any of the claims made on social media in the mainstream media, either in South Africa or Malawi. There is no evidence of witness tampering by the South African authorities.
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