South Africa expels 12 Lesotho diplomats, dependants for running illegal alcohol ring
London, June 11, 2021 (AltAfrica)-South Africa has given several diplomats from Lesotho 72 hours to leave the country over the illegal sale of duty-free alcohol.
A leaked note from the South African government, sent to the foreign ministry in Maseru, lists 12 diplomats, including spouses, who “have abused their diplomatic privileges”.
South Africa’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to queries for comment from AFP
South Africa had taken the decision because the diplomats violated laws “specifically, the illicit trade in duty-free alcohol”, it said in a statement.
South African media have reported that cash-strapped Lesotho diplomats have been bringing alcohol into the country, without paying duty, and then re-selling it in bars and restaurants.
A notice from the South African authorities listed the diplomats and their dependants and stated that they had “abused their diplomatic privileges”.
Lesotho has distanced itself from the actions of the diplomats and said that it was working on their return.
The country’s foreign affairs ministry wrote that it had learned with “disappointment and embarrassment” of the news.
The ministry expressed “disappointment and embarrassment that several Basotho diplomats…have been declared persona non grata” by South Africa.
It vowed disciplinary action when the officers return home.
The South African government has declared all those involved as “persona non grata”.
The illegal sale of alcohol in South Africa grew in 2020 during the coronavirus lockdowns that saw stores and bars close to prevent the spread of the virus.