The whereabouts of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir were still not known on Monday morning, more than 12 hours since the first report that he had left the country despite a court order halting his departure.
Justice department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told News24 on Monday morning: “As a legal team we move from the premise that he is still within the country as we are yet to verify these conflicting media reports.”
The confusion started when Bloomberg News quoted Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman as saying, “the president finished his business in South Africa and is coming back home”. But a while later, the news agency reported that journalists had seen Al-Bashir at an African Union summit in Johannesburg.
The KZN-based Mercury newspaper reported on Monday it understood that Al-Bashir left South Africa under a heavy police escort.
“He was escorted by all the security detail, including the Saps VIP Protection Unit, metro police and intelligence officials,” said a highly-placed source familiar with the developments.
The High Court in Pretoria will hear an application on Monday morning on whether South African authorities should arrest Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed in the conflict in Darfur.
The war led to the deaths of an estimated 300 000 people and the displacement of 2.5 million. A year later, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
On Sunday, Judge Hans Fabricius ordered that the Department of Home Affairs ensure that all points of entry and exit be informed that Al-Bashir is not allowed to leave until the SA Litigation Centre’s (SALC) application that South Africa arrest him, is concluded.
Mhaga told News24: “We are still on course in finalising our papers to file by 09:00.” News24