More foreign diplomats expelled from SA: Dirco

Matthew Savides Night news editor
SA has declared "several" foreign diplomats persona non grata over "illicit trade in duty-free alcohol".
SA has declared "several" foreign diplomats persona non grata over "illicit trade in duty-free alcohol".
Image: Lisa Hnatowicz/Gallo Images

The international relations and co-operation department (Dirco) has confirmed that “several” foreign diplomats have been declared “persona non grata”.

On Thursday, it was confirmed that Lesotho diplomats had been given 72 hours to leave the country. This after they were involved in illegally trading duty-free alcohol.

And on Friday, Malawi's Nation Online publication reported that “all diplomats” at the country's mission in Pretoria had been expelled from SA.

“According to multiple sources in government, the diplomats are accused of smuggling alcohol bought at duty free shops in a scandal involving diplomats from several countries. We will keep you updated with more details,” the publication said on its official Twitter account.

Dirco's head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, posted on Twitter: “Several diplomats accredited to  SA have been declared persona non grata following an investigation into their flouting of diplomatic privileges. This relates to illicit trade in duty-free alcohol. This action is in line with the Vienna Convention of 1961.”

On Twitter, Monyela was asked whether he was referring to the Lesotho and Malawi diplomats. He replied: “There's more.”

To another user, he said: “Watch this space. More to follow.”

In a statement issued on Friday night, Dirco said that the expulsion of the diplomats followed “an intensive investigation into their flouting of diplomatic privileges”.

The said diplomats were found guilty of engaging in illicit trade in duty-free alcohol. This decision was taken in line with the Vienna Convention of 1961. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is fundamental to the conduct of foreign relations and ensures that diplomats can conduct their duties without the threat of influence by the host government.

“However, in instances where such privileges are abused, the host country is obliged to take the necessary action in line with the convention. To this end, the SA government has given the affected diplomatic staff members and their families 72 hours within which they should leave SA. They are expected to relinquish their diplomatic status by returning all the necessary diplomatic tools to the Dirco.

“Investigations of similar transgressions by other missions accredited to SA are at an advanced stage and similar action will be taken should they be found guilty. Accordingly, the SA government calls upon all diplomatic missions accredited to the republic to respect, uphold and comply with all laws of the land, including adherence with prescripts of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,” Dirco said.

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