Jean-Jacques Cornish

A ding dong diplomatic tiff with Malawi

What started as a fraternal call from a new neighbour in great need has ended in a ding dong diplomatic fracas.

Nipping this in the bud will take decisive action by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera came to power in June, aged 65, having served as opposition leader.

Chakwera, who has also taken the Defense portfolio, benefitted from the Constitutional Court overturning the election of May 2019

When it come time to leave on Friday with a warm commuique reflecting talks with Ramaphosa, his plane parked at Waterkloof Air Force Base was delayed for fully seven hours.

Authorities strongly suspected that renegade self-styled prophet and millionaire Shepherd Bushiri had been spirited aboard to escape South African justice.

Bushiri and his wife Mary are facing fraud and money laundering charges involving R120 million .

They were out on bail of R200 000 each that required their presenting themselves at the Centurion police station on Mondays and Fridays.

They failed to do this last week.

A warrant of arrest has been issued and extradition proceedings with Malawi have begun.

Should they not appear on Thursday they will forfeit their R5,5 million house in Centurion.

It is unlikely they will. Bushiri says his life was threatened in South Africa where the authorities had ganged up against him to make a fair trial impossible

For Malawian Information Minister Gospel Kazate it is a simple matter.

Malawi is a signatory to the extradition agreement of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community.

It is not complicated, says Kazate

“We are a nation of laws.

“This is not a matter of emotion of opinion. We will do what the law compels us to do.”

It is less simple for South African authorities.

They will have to explain who persuaded them that a longtime minister of Assemblies of God Church would shelter a fugitive on the presidential  plane.

Anyone following the Gupta saga will recall that this is not then firsttime the activities at Waterkloof AFB have left South African authorities red faced. And official Malawian aircraft are a good story in South Africa.

Remember the admiration heaped on former President Joyce Banda for selling the hers and resorting to commercial flights.

Whatever happens Chakwera can be fairly assured of a more sympathetic hearing from Pretoria for whatever he came to South Africa asking for.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.