SUNDAY POLITICS – Escape of Bushiris the tip of iceberg

The escape of self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and wife Mary was an all-too-familiar sight.

For many years since the advent of our democracy in 1994, South Africa’s borders have been porous. So permeable are our points of entry that the other day the Guptas landed a plane with more than 200 wedding guests at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, a sensitive security point in the country frequently used by visiting heads of state.

While we were reeling and trying to make sense of how the then friends of former president Jacob Zuma could land Bollywood stars and other people who are not government officials there in 2013, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir flew from South Africa using Waterkloof in 2015, in contempt of a warrant of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court.

Stories abound of how the Bushiris could have fled the country. One theory suggests that they were given a lift by the Malawian president, Lazarus Chakwera, who was in the country when the escape occurred. The Malawian government has since denied that it offered the fugitives a lift.

Another theory holds that the pair could have used a sophisticated syndicate that smuggles stolen cars out of South Africa to flee from justice. Whatever the method or mode of transport the Bushiris used, their high-profile escape has embarrassed South Africa. More so because the two were out on bail of R200 000 related to charges of fraud, corruption and money-laundering.

South African authorities should have known that the Bushiris were a flight risk and monitored their movement. That they could brazenly flout their bail conditions and run to their home country shows their disregard for the laws of our country. But they are not alone in breaking our immigration laws. Thousands of immigrants from all over the world have illegally entered our country thanks to the leaky points of entry. Some of them are operating all manner of crime syndicates in South Africa.

South Africa has become a playground for all manner of global criminal networks. The escape of the Bushiris is a stark reminder of how easy it is to enter and leave South Africa. It is as embarrassing a security breach as was the landing of the Gupta wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

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