AFRICA — South Africa has given at least 12 Lesotho diplomats until Sunday to leave the country after they were declared non grata for engaging in illicit trade in duty-free alcohol.
On Friday, The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dicro) said the move to oust the diplomats was 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.” Said Dicro spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
On Thursday, Lesotho had with disappointment confirmed that its diplomats faced deportation for violating laws.
“several Basotho Diplomats serving in the Republic of South Africa, at Lesotho High Commission in Pretoria and the Consul in Johannesburg have been declared Persona non grata by the South African government.” It said
The diplomats are said to have been smuggling duty-free alcohol in the country and re-selling it locally.
According to SA Revenue Service (SARS) who discovered the illegal trade, the diplomats’ scheme evaded paying tax estimated at R100 million monthly.
The Government of Lesotho has in a statement through the Ministry of Foreign affairs condemned the actions adding that it is implementing measures to ensure the diplomats’ return to Lesotho within 72 hours.
South Africa had given the diplomats and their families until 72 hours to leave the country. They are also expected to renounce their diplomatic status.