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, the international relations department said on Wednesday.
“Our people are dealing with it. Malaika Mahlatsi hasn’t been arrested,” spokesman Clayson Monyela said.
As the 22-year-old South African had arrived in Morocco with no visa the country could either issue one to her if she had a strong case, or they could send her back to where she had come from.
He 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.
Monyela could not say how long Mahlatsi had been held at the airport.
According to her mother Dipuo, her daughter sent a few friends Whatsapp messages around 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 learned 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 some 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 ANCYL 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.”
The league said Mahlatsi was known as an outspoken young person who had recently expressed her views on the Moroccan government and the independence of the people of the Western Sahara.
“We also call on our government to demand her immediate release.” SAPA