SA law? That sounds for­eign

The Sunday Independent - - DISPATCHES -

DID YOU hear there’s a lion on the loose in our prov­ince and res­i­dents have been warned to re­main in­doors un­til it is found?

I’m not afraid of those over-sized pussy cats. I’m more pet­ri­fied of vi­o­lent first ladies who go around beat­ing up women in ho­tel rooms with tra­di­tional weapons in the shape of an elec­tric ca­ble.

Re­cent re­ports about how Zim­babwe’s First Lady (she ain’t no lady in my book) Grace Mu­gabe went on the ram­page at a lux­ury Jo­han­nes­burg ho­tel, se­ri­ously as­sault­ing a young lo­cal model and her friends as well as ho­tel staff, have caused pub­lic out­rage and a prickly di­plo­matic wran­gle.

What gives this woman, a for­eigner to boot, the right to come here and beat the day­lights out of one of our cit­i­zens?

And then, as if to add in­sult to in­jury, she is granted di­plo­matic im­mu­nity by our govern­ment and qui­etly slips out of the coun­try with­out be­ing pros­e­cuted.

Okay, I’ve heard the story of how our Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co­op­er­a­tion, Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane, had to ag­o­nise over the de­ci­sion and con­sider the coun­try’s re­la­tions with its re­gional neigh­bours, es­pe­cially Zim­babwe.

But what I would like to know is: what will our govern­ment do when Lady Grace de­cides to make an­other visit here – which she surely will, to per­haps in­vest in an­other mul­ti­mil­lion-rand man­sion or shop at Sand­ton’s swanky stores.

Do we, or­di­nary South Africans, take cover be­cause she hap­pens to be pro­tected prop­erty?

South Africa ap­pears to have taken on the role of a safe house or sanc­tu­ary for for­eign fig­ures seek­ing shel­ter from crim­i­nal charges or trou­ble in their coun­try.

We are now fa­mil­iar with the story of how the govern­ment ig­nored a high court or­der pre­vent­ing Su­dan’s Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir from leav­ing the coun­try two years ago, de­spite him be­ing charged with crimes against hu­man­ity, war crimes and geno­cide.

What about the hos­pi­tal­ity ac­corded to South Su­dan rebel leader Riek Machar, who has been liv­ing here since last year, bid­ing his time be­fore he feels safe enough to re­join hos­til­i­ties in his coun­try?

How about former Haitian pres­i­dent Ber­trand Aris­tide who, af­ter be­ing cast into ex­ile, was wel­comed to South Africa, where he was al­lowed to live with his fam­ily in a govern­ment villa and paid a salary for seven years.

Then there are oth­ers like the in­fa­mous Gupta brothers from India who came to our coun­try not to seek shel­ter from dan­ger, but to make their own per­sonal for­tunes. And the sup­port they en­joyed came right from the very top.

South Africa is known for its gen­eros­ity, com­pas­sion and hos­pi­tal­ity. How nice if that could be ex­tended to the Dalai Lama.

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