Airport Delay for Ramaphosa Triggers Diplomatic Fallout, Official Recalled

by Oluwatosin Alabi

In what’s labeled a severe diplomatic misstep, Castro Mlaba, a home affairs official stationed in Harare, is set for a recall after a logistical blunder caused significant delay for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s delegation at Harare International Airport. The incident, occurring on September 4, not only held up Ramaphosa, who was in the country for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration, but also affected the schedule of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s president.

South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs cited “serious misconduct” as grounds for Mlaba’s recall, triggering a legal battle. Mlaba, tasked with ensuring smooth travel for dignitaries, missed critical updates on the day due to connectivity issues, resulting in his late arrival and subsequent delay of the delegation.

Despite his apologies and pleas, citing the unintentional nature of his actions, the department stood firm on its decision, prompting Mlaba to challenge the recall in court. He argued against the sanction, deeming it a premature contract termination without solid legislative backing.

Johannesburg’s labour court sided with the department, emphasizing the gravity of Mlaba’s error on international relations. The official’s defensive shift in stance, retracting his initial apology, did little to sway the court’s decision, leading to the dismissal of his urgent application last Thursday.

While Mlaba escapes the added burden of legal costs, the ruling underscores the department’s resolve in upholding its reputation, stressing that personal circumstances offer no shield against professional repercussions.

The recall signifies South Africa’s stance on diplomatic protocol, reflecting its commitment to international credibility. While Mlaba’s future remains uncertain, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the high stakes in diplomatic interactions.

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