Johannesburg, Jun 18 (PTI) The governments of Malawi and Lesotho have expressed shock and dismay after South Africa expelled their diplomats in the country who were involved in a massive alcohol fraud issue.
The diplomats were given 72 hours to leave South Africa after an investigation revealed that they had bought huge amounts of liquor at duty-free rates and resold these to third parties rather than using it for their own private consumption, as was permitted
Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said the diplomats had been declared persona non-grata after lengthy investigations into their abuse of diplomatic privileges.
The South African Revenue Services, which collects the taxes on alcohol products for the fiscus, is believed to have lost more than 100 million rands from the actions of the diplomats.
Some of whom were allegedly openly running shebeens and boasting of their ability to provide alcohol at inflated rates during the COVID-19 lockdown last year, when sales of the products were prohibited.
Monyela said the two countries would not be the last to face action by South Africa regarding this offence.
"(Malawi and Lesotho) will not be the last you hear of this matter. There will be more," Monyela told the South African Broadcasting Corporation in an interview, adding that he could not name the other countries, citing diplomatic protocol.
"Investigations of similar transgressions by other missions accredited to South Africa are at an advanced stage and similar action will be taken should they be found guilty," he said.
Informed sources told local media that diplomats from at least eight other African countries are expected to be deported in the next few weeks.
"The government of the Kingdom of Lesotho distances itself and condemns the actions of the said diplomats in the strongest terms," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the tiny country landlocked within South Africa said in a statement.
Lesotho's Foreign Minister Matsepo Ramakoae expressed her country's disappointment and shock at the actions of its diplomats in South Africa.
Ramakoae said arrangements had been made to repatriate the affected diplomats to avoid the arrest, which they faced if they remained in South Africa.
"We are going to take the report from South Africa, look at it, and take action on the basis of that," she said.
Malawian Minister of Information Gospel Kazako said the diplomats had sullied the reputation of Malawians, who he said were known for their honesty and ethical behaviour.
"To hear that there were people involved in smuggling of alcohol by way of abusing the diplomatic privileges of the Geneva Convention of 1961, we find very, very shocking," Kazako told the broadcaster.
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)