Lesotho ‘disgraced’ over diplomats’ blunder

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Lesotho ‘disgraced’ over diplomats’ blunder
Lesotho ‘disgraced’ over diplomats’ blunder

Africa-PressLesotho. In a statement made on Friday last week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Hon. ‘Matšepo Ramakoae said on June 10, they received a

note verbale from the government of South Africa (SA) detailing the allegations of the Lesotho’s diplomats attached in some parts of that country. The

Minister said upon receiving the report, the Ministry immediately acted on charges levelled by the neighbouring country adding that they wrote to it to

express their remorse over the conduct of the Lesotho diplomats. These developments result from the recent debacle allegedly committed by the Lesotho diplomats in SA attached in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban missions.

The Diplomats are in hot water “due to the abuse of their diplomatic privileges”, a move which prompted their host country to declare them and their families persona non grata, this means they are

undesirable to be in the host country. Reacting to these developments, the government had then said it has learned with “disappointment and embarrassment that several Basotho diplomats serving in the

Republic of South Africa, at Lesotho High Commission in Pretoria and Lesotho Consulate in Johannesburg have been declared Persona Non Grata by the Government of South Africa”.

They were given 72 hours to vacate SA. She said those diplomats have been stripped of their diplomatic privileges and no longer enjoy diplomatic immunity.

The following diplomats and their spouses are alleged to have abused their privileges: ‘Malika Sylvia Molapo-Mphofe (Consular), Keketso Halieo Makhupane (First Secretary), Jane

Lekunya (Third Secretary), ‘Malebohang Jane (Attaché Administration), Cephas Koluoane Jane (spouse of M Jane), Ketso Pitrose Kalake (Attaché Driver), ‘Mathato Joyce Kalake (spouse of KP Kalake), Limakatso Mafelesi (spouse

of LJ Ralebesi, Consular Attaché Administration, Durban), Teboho Charles Letsela (Consular Attaché, Johannesburg), Molefi John Matsoso (Assistant Attaché, Johannesburg), ‘Makhotso Angelinah

Matsoso (spouse of MJ Matsoso) and ‘Makagiso Anicia Mabeleng (spouse of K Mabeleng, Consular Attaché, Johannesburg). The Ministry had also warned that the

two diplomats despite appearing in the list their contract had expired. Despite the government of SA saying they have to surrender the diplomatic tools (diplomatic identity cards (Ids),

diplomatic plate numbers and diplomatic passports), the Minister said of the 12 only four had returned theirs. Asked when the rest will surrender the Lesotho diplomatic passports to be deregistered, the Ministry’s Principal

Secretary (PS) retired Colonel Tanki Mothae said they will ensure that the diplomatic passports are returned as it is a norm when the tenure of office

ends. Asked when they will also return the SA’s IDs and cars registration numbers, he said they are now outside their “jurisdiction”. It is reported that these Diplomats buy

tax-free alcohol and allegedly sell it to the liquor outlets costing SA government to lose in excess of R100 million (M100 million) per month in taxes.

The Ministry had said they have contravened the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 treaty. Ramakoe said they have taken disciplinary actions against the alleged perpetrators adding that they will refer their

cases to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to pursue legal action against them. “The investigations are ongoing,” she said. The PS has indicated that the severity

of the disciplinary actions will be determined by the magnitude of the misconduct. Mothae further mentioned that the misconduct was committed in SA and they will “wait” for SA report adding that

at this stage they cannot give out much information as it might “prejudice” the outcomes. He however mentioned that they will enforce the Public Service code of conduct while enforcing the disciplinary

actions. The PS said ever since they had been expelled, they have not reported to the office instead they have approached their legal representatives.

“We are dealing with a complicated situation and the human beings,” he said adding that these actions have been

performed “deliberately” as the cases date back as far as 2018. The Minister said in due process they will engage the new diplomats who will replace these ones.

Reacting to the allegations that the diplomats are employed through political party lines, she said that practice is common in other countries saying there is nothing wrong

with it as long as those are “competent”. Meanwhile, the diplomats’ lawyer has written a letter to the Ministry, requesting an audience as some highly placed

persons are implicated in this saga. Also this correspondence intimated that the diplomats will lodge the case in court. Asked to respond to the allegations

that she (the Minister) and the PS are also implicated in the buying of alcohol at that duty-free shop for diplomats, the former said she is a teetotal adding

that if she could have bought it, she would stick to the confined limits while the latter said he had bought alcohol for M18 500 for personal purpose.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, Article 36 (1) charges the receiving state to exempt the Diplomats from paying taxes and customs duties when shopping.

The other privileges enjoyed by the diplomats as stipulated in the treaty’s Article 29 is that; “The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable.

He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom

or dignity. ” The other country to have their diplomats expelled by SA allegedly by the same misconduct is Malawi. Some of the functions performed by the

diplomats include the promotion of their country’s information on trade, commerce, technology and maintaining the cordial relations between their countries and the receiving State.

The Vienna Convention states the functions of diplomatic missions as: “Representing the sending State in the receiving State; Protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending

State and of its nationals within the limits permitted by international law; Negotiating with the government of the receiving State. ” The Minister said all the services

rendered by the missions whose these diplomats were assigned at are available. She further made a call to all the Lesotho diplomats all over the world to uphold the image of the country.

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