Illegal trade: South Africa gives expelled Lesotho diplomats 72 hours to leave

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Twelve Lesotho diplomats and their spouses have been expelled from South Africa over the illicit peddling of duty-free alcohol. PHOTO | LUDOVIC MARIN | AFP

The South African Government has given 12 Lesotho diplomats and their spouses 72 hours to wind up and leave the country following their expulsion over alleged 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 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.”

According to a report by The EastAfrican, the officials were given 72 hours to leave the country after violating the laws “specifically, the illicit trade in duty-free alcohol.”

According to reports, the deported diplomats have been bringing alcohol into the country without paying duty and then re-selling it in bars and restaurants.

In a statement, the Foreign Affairs ministry in Lesotho said it will take disciplinary action against the officers when they return home.

“The government of the Kingdom of Lesotho distances itself and condemns the actions of the said diplomats in the strongest terms. Measures are underway to ensure their return in the stipulated 72 hours,” reads the statement.

A leaked note from the South African government sent to the Foreign Affairs ministry in Maseru, lists 12 diplomats, including spouses, who “have abused their diplomatic privileges.”

South Africa’s Foreign Affairs ministry is yet to make a public announcement about the move.

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