At least 12 Lesotho diplomats and their spouses have until Sunday to wind up and leave South Africa after being expelled over the illicit peddling of duty-free alcohol.
Lesotho’s foreign affairs and international relations ministry confirmed the setback on Thursday saying they had learnt with “disappointment and embarrassment that several Basotho diplomats serving at the Lesotho High Commission in Pretoria and the Consul in Johannesburg have been declared Persona non grata by the South African government”.
“The officials were given 72 hours to leave the country after violating the laws “specifically, the illicit trade in duty-free alcohol”.
Reports indicated that the deported diplomats had been bringing alcohol into the country without paying duty and then reselling it in bars and restaurants.
The foreign affairs ministry in Lesotho has vowed to take disciplinary action when the officers return home.
“The government of the Kingdom of Lesotho distances itself from, and condemns, the actions of the said diplomats in the strongest terms. Measures are underway to ensure their return in the stipulated 72 hours,” read the statement.
A leaked note from the South African government, sent to the foreign ministry in Maseru, lists 12 diplomats and their spouses, and says they “have abused their diplomatic privileges”.
South Africa’s foreign ministry has commented publicly on the move.