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.