The home affairs department has confirmed that five officials have been internally charged and are facing disciplinary processes for their role in how now-fugitive prophet Shepherd Bushiri acquired his permanent-residence permit in SA.
Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee on Tuesday that due to the sensitivity of the case, he wouldn’t go into detail.
“I just want to confirm that, yes, we do have that high-powered case that is on, that involves Bushiri but it does not involve how he escaped the country.
That one is the purview of the Hawks, the SAPS, crime intelligence and state security,” he said.
He said that at the centre of the home affairs’ investigation was how Bushiri initially got his documents to become a permanent resident of the country.
Motsoaledi rejected media reports that Bushiri had “captured” his department.
The City Press reported last month that Bushiri had effectively captured the department of home affairs and that he had several of its directors, adjudicators, clerks and even an MP acting in unison to circumvent the law and smooth the way for him.
The newspaper said it had uncovered evidence of how some senior individuals jumped through hoops to secure permanent residency permits for fraud accused Bushiri, his wife Mary and their two young children.
“I want to tell you straight that Bushiri did not capture home affairs,” he said.
Motsoaledi said there were individuals who collaborated with Bushiri and that five implicated officials have been suspended.
He said one of the five individuals had taken the department to the labour court twice, but lost his cases.
“We are busy with the DC [disciplinary] and we are waiting for other law-enforcement agencies to play their role because the DC is an internal process where we take you for a disciplinary hearing but there will also be a criminal element which will have to be dealt with by the other law-enforcement agencies,” he added.
Motsoaledi indicated that the department was experiencing problems in getting to the bottom of why the officials collaborated with the church leader and suggested that banks were not willing to share financial information.
“When officials were found to have given Bushiri documents fraudulently, which we definitely have found to have been the case … what was the reward, is there a financial reward, or were they just doing it for the love of Bushiri? Or were they paid huge amounts of money – and I’m not saying by him.
“You can only arrive there by checking their financial situation for which as home affairs we don’t have expertise,” he said.
He said one has to go to the Financial Intelligence Centre and phone banks and “the banks, I can assure you, while publicly they tell us how they hate corruption, they will give you a tough time when you want information about clients”, he said.
“They will tell you about client confidentiality, that the client would run from them. Those are the intricacies which we are faced with when we deal with these cases,” said Motsoaledi.
Bushiri skipped bail last November and fled to Malawi with his wife, claiming in a statement posted on Facebook they had fled to preserve their lives after local authorities failed to act on several alleged death threats they had received. They were facing a court case in which they were to answer to allegations of fraud, theft and money laundering involving R102m.
Motsoaledi said after realising what happened in the Bushiri case, the anti-corruption unit in his department disclosed that issues of immigration, especially permitting, constituted about 66% or two-thirds of all the work that they are engaged with.
He said it was with this background in mind and having taken the Bushiri case into consideration that they decided to establish a team, headed by the former presidency director-general Cassius Lubisi, to investigate all the permits that the department has issued since 2004.
Motsoaledi said the investigation was looking into all permanent-residence permits, corporate permits, especially in the mining sector, study visas, business visas, retirement visas and everything that is in a form of a permit that was issued by the department since 2004.
They specifically chose 2004 because that is the year in which the Immigration Act of 2002 came into effect.
This did not mean they would ignore information of wrongdoing preceding 2004 if that comes up, he said.