How Kenyans got into Malawi drama

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021 10:14 |
Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife during a past court appearance in Lilongwe, Malawi. COURTESY

By Nyaboga Kiage

Last Friday afternoon, a private jet, registration number 5YMSR, belonging to Phoenix Aviation, left the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Destination: the Hastings Kamuzu International Airport, Lilongwe, Malawi. On board the light jet, which had been specially configured into an air ambulance, was the pilot Sam Pertet, a doctor James Ndegwa, a nurse and an unidentified First Officer.

The plane had been hired by the family of controversial Malawi-born cleric, “Prophet” Shepherd Bushiri to airlift his ailing daughter for urgent medical attention at a Nairobi hospital.

The plane was expected to fly back to Nairobi later that evening. At the Hastings Kamuzu International airport were prophet Bushiri’s two daughters Raphaella and Israella, his mother-in-law, Esther Bushiri and a domestic worker, Ms Magdalene Zgambo, who were to accompany the patient on the trip to Nairobi.

Referred to Nairobi hospital

The daughter had been hospitalised in a Malawian hospital for months before her doctors referred her to the Nairobi health facility where she had previously been admitted to and has her medical history.

But shortly before the plane could embark on the return journey, Malawian authorities intercepted it, acting on fears that the controversial cleric who is fighting an extradition case in Malawi, was planning to flee the country.

“It is believed that the prophet was on his way out of the country and the family was to leave first before he followed them. However, the police learned about it and they acted swiftly and stopped the four from leaving the country,” a senior Malawi security official told People Daily yesterday.

Contacted yesterday, the cleric’s spokesman Ephraim Nyondo said the family was yet to be told why Malawian authorities stopped the plane from airlifting the ailing daughter to Nairobi and went ahead to issue warrants of arrest for Bushiri and his wife, Mary.

Flown to Kenyan hospitals

On Sunday, and the better part of Monday morning, police officers camped in one of Bushiri’s premises in Lilongwe waiting to arrest him following the warrant of arrest, without success.

“The family is yet to be informed why the police want to arrest Bushiri especially after they blocked his daughter from seeking medical attention in Kenya. When the officers stormed his house, his lawyers quickly challenged the warrant of arrest through a court injunction,” said Nyondo.

The spokesman explained that it was not the first time the ailing girl, aged eight, had been flown to Kenya for treatment. The girl, according to Nyondo, has been in and out of the Kenyan hospital several times and it is on the recommendation of her doctors that she was referred to Nairobi for further medical attention.

Extradition orders

“All the necessary immigration and medical details were available to facilitate the travel through a chartered air ambulance. Up to now, we have not been informed why the child was denied the right to lawfully access medical attention after being duly referred by a competent doctor,” Nyondo said, adding that the girl’s condition was critical and worsening by the day.

Bushiri’s lawyer, Wapona Kita, accused the police of endangering the patient’s life by blocking her from seeking medical attention in Kenya where she was referred to by her doctors.

“I have personally visited the minor and her health condition is really worrying,” Kita said in an earlier interview.

The lawyer said that the cleric is expected in a Malawian court on March 8 to fight orders to have him extradited to South Africa.

The self-proclaimed prophet had moved to court after the Malawian government agreed to South Africa’s request to deport him and his wife tom face charges.

“We are prepared to go to court and fight the matter while he is still here,” the lawyer said.

Local media reported that drama was witnessed at the airport when officers swiftly acted and thwarted the plans of the cleric’s family members to leave Malawi despite the private plane waiting for hours.

Bushiri has been fighting extradition to South Africa since November last year when he sneaked into Malawi just days after he was granted bail on a money laundering case he is facing.

More on National