SA lawyers arrested in Tanzania for 'promoting homosexuality' being held 'illegally'

Cape Town – The two South Africans arrested for "promoting homosexuality" in Tanzania last week were being held in the country's prisons "illegally", the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) said on Monday.

ISLA human rights lawyer Sibongile Ndashe and another South African lawyer were arrested in the Peacock Hotel in Dar es Salaam by Tanzanian police on Tuesday last week.

The name of the second South African has not been released to the media.

READ: Two South Africans held in Tanzania for homosexuality

Tanzanian law dictates that a suspect should be charged in a criminal court within 24 hours of being arrested, ISLA spokesperson Matilda Lasseko told News24 on Monday.

"The reality is that, if they [the two South Africans] broke any laws, they would've been charged already. What is happening now is illegal – the country is on a witch-hunt against our people," Lasseko said.

Lasseko said the two lawyers were arrested while they were discussing possible litigation against the Tanzanian government for closing down HIV care centres.

Since their arrest last week, the two were granted bail, which was then revoked on Friday when they reported, as required by their bail conditions, to a Tanzanian police station.

'Against the principle of justice'

"It is quite unfortunate that the Tanzanian government is doing this now, the message they are sending [to citizens] is that if you are planning any legal action against the state, there is ill-treatment coming your way," Lasseko said.

"What the state is saying is that: we will harass you and unlawfully detain you. This goes against the fundamental principle of justice."

Lasseko said she did not know to what extent Tanzanian courts were politically influenced, which might negatively affect the South Africans arrested.

ALSO READ: Tanzania arrests 12 for 'homosexuality' in Dar es Salaam

She said, however, that the detained lawyers were in "good spirits" at Dar es Salaam's central police station and were meeting with lawyers who would try and expedite a court appearance.

The South African High Commissioner in Tanzania, Thami Mseleku, said the South African embassy had been in contact with the Tanzanian police since the lawyers' arrest.

Mseleku said he has personally met with the two South Africans, but had been asked by police to "give them space to complete investigations".

The South African embassy was also in continual contact with the Tanzanian department of international relations, as was custom when matters such as these arose, Mseleku said.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) did not respond to a News24 request for comment and referred all enquiries to the South African embassy.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

News24 (@News24) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from News24 (@News24). News24 is Southern Africa and Africa's premier online news resource reaching over 2.3 million local users each month. South Africa

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 1038 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 5751 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 1207 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.