CAR diplomats use immunity to dodge rent debt

2013-02-28 00:00

THE daughter of a former state president is battling claimed diplomatic immunity as she tries to get Central African Republic diplomats to pay an embassy rental debt.

Marga Hofmeyr, daughter of the late Dr Nic Diederichs, is claiming R170 000 from CAR for the outstanding rent, electricity and telephone payments.

But, in an extraordinary move, the principal state law adviser — citing the Foreign States Immunities Act — threatened Hofmeyr’s attorney, Ben Groot, with criminal charges should he issue summons against CAR and its ambassador, Paul Dimassi.

Principal state law advisor Riaan de Jager wrote to Groot saying that it was an offence under the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act to bring legal action against another country’s representatives who enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

De Jager said the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) would take up the matter with CAR through diplomatic channels.

Groot refused to withdraw the summons and said they had tried to get help from Dirco for eight months.

Vusi Koloane, chief of state protocol, said he had personally gone out of his way to assist Hofmeyr and had succeeded in getting some money for her.

CAR embassy official Marina Gambi denied the embassy owed Hofmeyr R170 000.

Prior to letting the house to CAR, Hofmeyr ran it as The Diplomat, an upmarket guest house in Arcadia, but when she moved to Stellenbosch, she handed it to an agent who did a deal with CAR to rent it for R30 000 per month with an option to buy.

As a result of non-payments during the following two years, Groot succeeded in having the lease cancelled and the CAR staff and its ambassador vacated the premises. Groot obtained a default judgment against the country’s mission and ambassador. But the sheriff of the court refused to execute an attachment order citing diplomatic immunity laws.

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