Pretoria – Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary will have to wait until tomorrow to hear whether or not they will be able to proceed with their formal bail application.
The Enlightened Christian Gathering royalty remain in custody after the State requested a postponement in order to afford the investigating team time to verify several key factors.
In dealing with the request, the State read into the record an affidavit from the investigating officer, who said the team was at an advanced stage of investigations, but required time to confirm the address of the Bushiris, as the one provided was up for sale and the accused did not live there.
Also, the State was in possession of an affidavit from the Department of Home Affairs in which Bushiri and his wife Mary’s status in the country was still unclear.
The State added that the police had received information following the arrests of two other co-accused, Willah Mudolo and Zethu Mudolo, that the Bushiris would attempt to evade their trial, prompting the recent arrests.
Willah and Zethu Mudolo appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Monday and their case was postponed to October 30 for a formal bail application.
The address of another accused, 37-year-old Landiwe Sindani, still had to be verified. According to the police, no one knew her at the residence she had provided.
Following a short adjournment, however, their defence, Anneline van den Heever, handed into the court the judgment from the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, delivered earlier indicating that their status in the country remained unchanged.
In it is information that the couple’s two children were in Malawi and travel documents were with the State.
The couple had been granted permanent resident status in South Africa, it was stated in the judgment. It was also said Bushiri had close family ties in the country, many of whom were in court yesterday and would be willing to assist the police with the information they still needed to verify.
Van den Heever also criticised the State for not having “their house in order”, saying police had in fact been investigating the matter since January last year.
She said the police were aware the couple had been leasing the residence they were staying at since 2015 because their home was still being renovated.
They had applied to the high court for an urgent interdict regarding various issues, among them that when last they had been arrested they had been released because the State’s charges had changed several times. This was on top of the fact that the police were in possession of all their travel documents.
Investigations into the Bushiris’ migration status was irrational and illegal, according to judgment made in August. Their lawyer said she intended to deal with the manner in which they were granted permanent residence, as it was Home Affairs which had granted it, erroneously or not, so that they were not to blame.
The issue of their residence status and the manner in which it was being dealt with by the State had been brought before the court early in September as an urgent matter, but was dismissed because it was found not to be urgent.
This was despite all parties agreeing it was urgent, the judgment said.
Of Sindani, she added that the police had not produced any documentation as to who they had spoken to regarding the lack of confirmation of the address.
In fact, Van den Heever read court affidavits from all three accused, which she said had all the information the police required, as the other issues mentioned as reasons for the postponement had “fallen by the wayside”.
Bushiri, his wife and Sindani were appearing in court on alleged involvement in fraud and money laundering to the tune of R102million.
The media were barred from taking visuals or making any recordings of the court appearance yesterday. An order was made by magistrate Thandi Theledi. She said her reason for denying the media permission to record and broadcast proceedings was based on the fact that media houses had failed to bring a proper application before the courts. However, she did indicate that the matter would be reviewed should a proper application be brought before the courts.