Bushiri ‘declared tithes as own riches’ in bid for residency

The Department of Home Affairs has shed light on how self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri illegally used tithes from his church and an aircraft to obtain documents for permanent residency in South Africa.

In final submissions filed in a disciplinary case against the senior official who granted approval for Bushiri’s permanent residency, the department goes to length to show that Bushiri and his family did not qualify for permanent residency after they used bank accounts of their church and an aircraft purchased for $1,25-million as proof of an investment they were going make.

The department contended that Bushiri did not have a net worth of R12-million and instead used the bank account of the church for his application in 2016.

“Accepting for the moment that one could consider an aircraft as an investment, it must be purchased for commercial/freight business use. However, purchasing it for personal use, as Bushiri did, does not constitute an investment.

“It is like a person purchasing an expensive Rolls Royce in South Africa and calling it an investment because of what it costs and the fact that it needs a chauffeur. This is utter nonsense. This, without even considering the fact that a cash purchase of an aircraft for $1,25-million should immediately raise eyebrows about possible money laundering or contravention of exchange control regulations,” the department said.

“Secondly, the chartered accountant relied on the bank statements of the church. Church funds cannot be relied upon as a source of investment, and it is not clear why they were even attached. A cursory glance at the bank statements in any event reveal that large amounts of cash were deposited and then withdrawn each month,” the department added.

The Bushiri’s permanent residency was also unlawfully authorised along with applications for refugee status.

In terms of the Immigration Act, an applicant must invest or intend to invest R2,5-million in the country to be granted permanent residency, among other qualifying criteria.

The act also states that the minimum net worth of an applicant should be R12-million, of which R120 000 should be paid to the director-general of home affairs upon approval of the application.

The submission is based on the report of an internal investigation that the department conducted into the saga.

The department wants Ronney Marhule, the suspended chief director of permits, to be found guilty of misconduct related to gross dishonesty, gross negligence and non-compliance with the Immigration Act. The outcome of the case will be out in a few weeks.

In January, the Labour Court dismissed Marhule’s application opposing the fact that the department used a lawyer to preside over his disciplinary hearing.

The department alleges Marhule approved Bushiri’s application while the application file and all relevant documents were still at the Lilongwe mission in Malawi and were only couriered to the department’s head office in Pretoria during December 2019.

“There was documentary evidence available in the files of the department establishing that Bushiri was in South Africa on a visitor’s visa but had, contrary to the Immigration Act, been conducting a business, which ought to have resulted in the rejection of the application, or alternatively, its referral for further investigation.

“There was documentary evidence available in the files of the department, establishing that Bushiri’s spouse, Mary Bushiri, had submitted a fraudulent exemption certificate issue in terms of the repealed Aliens Control Act prior to the application and recommendation for the approval of Bushiri’s permanent residence permit, which ought to have resulted in rejection of the application, alternatively, its referral for further investigation,” the department said.

In October 2020, the Bushiris  were arrested and charged with fraud and money laundering by the Hawks.

The status of Bushiri’s citizenship was brought into question during the arrest.

The department, through its counter corruption unit, initiated an investigation into allegations of irregular approval of permanent residence permit of Bushiri and his family.

That November, Bushiri and his wife fled to Malawi.

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