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DA requests update from DIRCO on sexual harassment claims against Algerian Ambassador to SA

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Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, DR Naledi Pandor

PERSISMA – The Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted urgent Parliamentary questions to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, to understand why there seems to have been no movement on the alleged case of sexual harassment against the Algerian Ambassador to South Africa.

In March, a domestic helper who had been employed in the residence of the Algerian Ambassador for almost ten years, laid criminal charges with the police against the Ambassador for alleged sexual assault. She accused the Ambassador of repeated sexual assault between 2013 and 2017. The South African Police Service (SAPS), in March, confirmed that a case of sexual assault was opened against a diplomat in South Africa, understood to be attached to the Algerian Mission.

The DA is mindful that an investigation should take place and that a person is innocent until proven guilty. However, in this case it seems that the wheels of justice have come to a grinding halt and the South African government has prioritised diplomacy over the protection of a possible vulnerable victim of a sexual crime.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 might provide limited powers to a host country in this regard, but this does not render them powerless. The South African government has the opportunity to investigate the possibility of declaring the current Algerian Ambassador, persona non grata, by condemning his continued stay in the country.

The complainant deserves to know that her pleas have not fallen on deaf ears. She deserves to know what actions the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has taken to date, if any, to ensure that this matter is brought to a speedy resolution for the judicial benefit of both suspect and victim.

Just because the Ambassador enjoys diplomatic immunity, does not prevent the law from taking its full course.

It would be a shame, in a country reeling from crime where women living in constant fear of becoming victims of acts of violence, a locally recruited employee is further victimised as DIRCO seems to have, once again, chosen diplomacy over justice for a South Africa citizen who has allegedly been the victim of a crime.

Non-interference in this matter, is not just quiet diplomacy, but is tantamount to DIRCO stating that South African lives do not matter.

Issued by Darren Bergman MP – DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation

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