Johannesburg - The government’s justice, crime prevention and security cluster has issued a stern warning to foreign governments not to use South Africa as a “springboard” to conduct illegal acts like assassinating their political opponents.
The warning was issued by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who leads the cluster.
He was responding to a media question, as strained relations between South Africa and Rwanda worsened after the murder of former Rwandan spy chief Patrick Karegeya, who had been an active opponent of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
“The point to be made is that there are good diplomatic relations between South Africa and Rwanda, and those still remain intact. But, having said that, the South African government has taken a decision to declare persona non grata certain persons from Rwanda and Burundi who violated article 41 of the Vienna Convention and article 9 of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act,” said Radebe.
He said the two violations were the main reason why Rwandan diplomats were asked to leave the country last week.
“This arises from illegal activities that have taken place where there were attempted murders, including a murder of nationals who are in South Africa.
“As the South African government, we want to send a stern warning to anybody anywhere that our country will not be used as a springboard to do illegal activities, and that we are a constitutional democracy, and that any individual or groups of people who abuse our human rights dispensation will face the full might of the law,” said Radebe.
He said the Rwandan nationals involved in the latest case were not arrested because of diplomatic immunity, which had been around “even before we were born”.
There have been reports this week that South Africa is planning to sever all diplomatic ties with Rwanda.
Relations between the two countries reached an all-time low after the expulsion of three Rwandan diplomats from the country.
The DA spokesman on international relations Justus de Goede said this week that Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane should “urgently” brief Parliament “on what amounts to a rupture of diplomatic ties” between South Africa and Rwanda.
This followed Rwanda’s expulsion of six South African diplomats last Friday, the central east African country claiming South Africa harboured dissidents responsible for terrorist attacks in Rwanda.
The three Rwandan diplomats were allegedly linked to a recent “attempted hit” on exiled Rwandan army chief Faustin Nyamwasa at his home in Joburg.
Nyamwasa, who is a former rival and critic of Kagame, survived an assassination attempt in Joburg in 2010.
He and his family were not at home last Monday night, reportedly having been moved to a safe place before the latest attack.
Radebe said the South African government had evidence that the expelled Rwandans and a Burundian diplomat, also given his marching orders last week, were involved in crimes on South African soil.
After the expulsion, Rwanda expelled six South African diplomats. Asked about this, Radebe said: “There are good diplomatic relations between South Africa and Rwanda, and those still remain intact.”
Embassies and missions in the two countries remained open.