SA youth ambassador ‘not arrested but being held’ in Morocco

2014-10-09 08:50

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An African Union youth ambassador has not been arrested but is being held at a Moroccan airport because she has no visa to enter that country.

Malaika Mahlatsi, who has been outspoken about the Moroccan government and the independence of the people of the Western Sahara, had arrived in Morocco on Tuesday with no visa and was being held at the airport.

“Our people are dealing with it. [But] Malaika Mahlatsi hasn’t been arrested,” international relations department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said yesterday.

The country could either issue a visa to the 22-year-old South African if she had a strong case, or they could send her back to where she had come from.

Monyela could not confirm that Mahlatsi was in the country as part of the African Union’s youth charter.

The department’s Nelson Kgwete said earlier that Mahlatsi was travelling with others and that the group was being held at the airport while authorities were contacting conference organisers to ascertain the arrival and details of the group.

He said the department was monitoring the process, and around 6pm the group was still at the airport.

“We called her mother, informed her of what happened and gave her the latest report,” Kgwete said.

Kgwete was in contact with officials at the South African mission in Morocco.

According to Mahlatsi’s mother, Dipuo, her daughter sent a few friends WhatsApp messages at about 1.30pm telling them that she was detained at the airport and did not know why.

“I only got to learn of her detention today, nearly 24 hours after the fact. I was also informed that she is not allowed to make calls to anyone.”

She said she learnt from her daughter’s friends that Malaika arrived in Morocco on Tuesday morning around 5am and was detained as soon as she arrived.

“The visa issue doesn’t make sense because she’s always travelling as a [member of the AU]. We know ... that Morocco is not part of the AU.

“Malaika is very careful about the image she portrays. It is not possible. She is always travelling. The AU always arranges their travel.”

She said officials at the department had called her earlier in the day to inform her that they were monitoring the issue and that they had spoken to the minister about the matter.

Meanwhile, the ANC Youth League called on the Moroccan government to release her.

“The youth league hopes that the government of Morocco has not ‘detained’ Malaika for her views. We can find no other plausible or justifiable reason for its unjust action.

“We also call on our government to demand her immediate release.”

Western Sahara is the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.

The territory is rich in phosphate and is believed to have offshore oil deposits.

Most of Western Sahara has been under Morocco’s control since 1976.

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