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South Africa recalls Oslo diplomat

A diplomat at South Africa’s embassy in Oslo has been called home after he crashed an embassy car while, according to police, he was driving under the influence of alcohol. He had been suspected of drunk driving on an earlier occasion as well.

“We can confirm that we now have received a response (from the South African Embassy) that South African authorities will call home the diplomat suspected of drunk driving,” Astrid Sehl of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry told newspaper VG Tuesday night. “It’s not yet clear when the diplomat will return to South Africa, but Norwegian authorities want a speedy departure.”

Faces disciplinary action
VG also reported that judicial advisers to the South African government recommend that disciplinary action be taken against the diplomat, who held a high-ranking position of first secretary at the embassy in Oslo. The recommendation reportedly was made in a confidential report from the judicial division of the South African foreign ministry, to which VG obtained access.

Police had alerted Norway’s foreign ministry in September that he’d been stopped on suspicion of drunk driving but refused to submit to testing, claiming diplomatic immunity. He made the same immunity claim late on the night of January 2, after he’d collided with a car driven by a health care worker responding to a patient’s call for help. The health care worker, a young woman in her 20s, was injured in the crash and both vehicles were badly damaged.

The South African ministry also confirmed that the diplomat was being recalled. The recall comes after Norway’s ministry summoned South African Ambassador Queen Anne Zondo to a meeting shortly after the car crash, and presented her with a request that his immunity be revoked. Then he would have to face charges in Norway.

Revocation refused
“Since this was a serious traffic accident involving personal injuries and suspicions of drunk driving, we would have preferred that the diplomat be questioned by police and eventually charged in Norway,” Sehl told VG. “It is not acceptable that foreign diplomats break Norwegian law.”

South African authorities refused to revoke his immunity but did agree to bring him home, with the report on the matter noting that would “probably be in the (South African) department’s best interests.”

VG reported that the diplomat also wound up in the hospital with injuries to a leg after he crashed the embassy car. Opposition politicians in South Africa called the diplomat’s behaviour “a national shame.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund



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