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'Bushiris are in South Africa illegally'





Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary are in South Africa illegally, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Monday.

In an interview with SAfm's Bongi Gwala, Motsoaledi said the couple entered South Africa for the first time on 6 September 2009 at the Beitbridge border post and were issued with visitors' visas.

"We don't stop people from visiting our country. Visitors' visas have a time frame – you can stay for 90 days or 30 days... because you're a visitor," Motsoaledi said.

However, while Bushiri was in South Africa in 2014, 2015 and 2016, he registered companies with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), it further emerged.

"This is not allowed in terms of the [conditions of] the visitor's visa.

"In 2012, Mary Bushiri entered South Africa through the OR Tambo International Airport, [where] she produced a fraudulent permanent resident's permit, which was issued on 1 February 1997," said Motsoaledi.

"Now, if you came to South Africa for the first time on 6 September 2009, how can you already have a permanent residency dating 1997?

"But then, on 17 May 2016, both Shepherd Bushiri and his wife applied for permanent residency. Remember, his wife has already shown us a permanent residency permit dated February 1997."

Motsoaledi said that when they made the application, the Bushiris declared under oath that they first entered the country in 2015.

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has since suspended the Department of Home Affairs' permanent residence notice against Bushiri and his wife until they plead in their criminal trial, City Press reported.

According to a ruling by Judge Brenda Neukircher on 20 October, the notice will have to wait until Bushiri and his wife have pleaded to charges of fraud and money laundering to the value of R102 million, and to the contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

READ | 'We are not going back without our Major 1,' supporters sing as Bushiri and wife remain in custody

On 21 October, the couple appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on charges of fraud and money laundering.

Motsoaledi told SAfm the discrepancies in the couple's visa applications were first discovered when they were investigated for the said charges.

Notices 'mysteriously withdrawn'

The minister said two notices to the Bushiris to explain details in their permanent residency applications had been "mysteriously withdrawn by our own officials in Home Affairs". The most recent was sent out in August this year.

"I'm saying 'mysteriously' because I still don't understand why these notices were withdrawn."

A third notice was issued on 26 March 2019. This notice was eventually set aside by a court on 2 August 2020, which also declared it irrational, unlawful and invalid, News24 previously reported.

Motsoaledi said his department would appeal that ruling.

When asked if officials from his department had been involved in irregularities pertaining to the Bushiris' documents, Motsoaledi said: "Absolutely, absolutely."

On Sunday, News24 reported that two senior Home Affairs officials involved in serving the Bushiris with notices from the department had been suspended.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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