November 17, 2020
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, president of the Republic of Malawi. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS
Pretoria – The South African government on Tuesday said the delayed departure of Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, which has sparked an angry reaction from the Malawian government, was due to “important security, logistical and procedural processes”.
Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and cooperation Clayson Monyela said during the delay, which was reportedly more than six hours, South African government officials did not unduly compromise normal diplomatic courtesies extended to visiting presidential delegations.
“The matter of the reported delay of the departure of the Malawian presidential jet at the Waterkloof Air Force Base was unfortunate and unavoidable. The delay was occasioned by important security, logistical and procedural processes,” Monyela said.
He said these processes created some concerns and misunderstanding within the Malawian delegation. “These concerns have been addressed,” Monyela said.
“It is important to note that at no point did South African officials unduly compromise normal diplomatic courtesies extended to visiting presidential delegations. Matters related to events at the Waterkloof Air Force will be handled and communicated through diplomatic channels.”
The South African government reiterated that it remains committed to working with the Malawian government to ensure mutually beneficial relations.
President Lazarus Chakwera’s official working visit to Pretoria has been marred in controversy, after law enforcement authorities in South Africa discovered that popular Malawian preacher, Shepherd Bushiri had breached his bail conditions and fled back to Malawi with his co-accused wife.
The government of Malawi on Monday issued a statement, expressing displeasure with the treatment of Chakwera and his delegation after their meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The Malawian foreign affairs ministry said even though Pretoria’s presidency did well by clarifying publicly that Chakwera played no role in abetting fugitive Bushiri’s escape, the statement fell short.
“The government of Malawi is aware and grateful that a public statement was recently issued by the South African government, exculpating President Chakwera from false allegations dominating the South African media that his presidential plane was used as a conduit for trafficking two Malawians wanted by South African authorities,” the Malawian government said.
“Notwithstanding, the government of Malawi notes with concern that the statement falls short of acknowledging that the treatment President Chakwera was subjected to upon his departure was improper and incongruous to the warm hospitality he received upon his arrival.”
The South African government has issued a warrant of arrest for Bushiri and his wife Mary.
Speculation was rife on social media that Bushiri and his wife had left South Africa on the Malawian presidential jet.