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24 Oct 2014 00:00
Former MP Feno Ranaivo was part of a rally in Antananarivo on Saturday in support of ex-president Marc Ravalomanana, who has been placed under house arrest. Police broke up the rally. (AFP)
South Africa’s security agencies have launched an investigation into how Marc Ravalomanana, the former president of
Madagascar, left the country illegally.
He left without a passport and flew to Madagascar two weeks ago without
the knowledge of the South African authorities.
He had been living in exile, hosted by South Africa, since being ousted
in a coup in his country in 2009.
According to sources, he gave his VIP protection the slip while staying
in a hotel in Pietermaritzburg and travelled back to Johannesburg, where he had
been living for the past few years. He then flew in a private Cessna plane to
Madagascar without proper travel documents on Sunday October 19.
It is unclear
how he managed to land in his country without documentation.
The following day his home in Antananarivo was surrounded by military
police. Ravalomanana is being held at a military base 700km from the capital in
the north of the country.
Commitments not kept
His spokesperson, Brian Currin, admitted that the former president left
the country illegally, but said it was justified because neither the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) nor Madagascar’s President Hery
Rajaonarimampianina had kept to commitments that Ravalomanana would be allowed
to go home. “Unless he forced his way back, there was no other way for him to
return,” Currin said this week.
In 2012, an SA Airlink plane en route to Madagascar was forced to
return to South Africa because Ravalomanana was on board.
Currin said Ravalomanana did not have a passport because it had expired and a new passport hadn’t been issued to
him, despite a written commitment by the authorities in Madagascar 10 months
Ravalomanana is also under investigation by the
National Prosecuting Authority on charges relating to events in
Madagascar. The investigation is still ongoing, an NPA spokesperson told
the M&G. In 2012
a Malagasy rights group brought a complaint against him involving the
shooting of protestors by Ravalomanana’s forces during the coup in 2009.
Aviation experts say to fly someone out of the country, even from a
small private airfield, without the knowledge of any authorities, would be
difficult but theoretically it can be done.
Guy Lietch, the editor of SA Flyer magazine, said any pilot who
planned to fly across an international boundary had to submit a flight plan and
state how many passengers were on board.
Airport authorities will check whether the correct procedures were
followed and the correct general documentation signed and approved.
“To fly out without authorisation would mean flying literally under the
radar and few pilots would risk their careers to do that,” Lietch said. Rumours circulated in the media in Madagascar that Ravalomanana flew
back on a plane chartered by SADC but the organisation said in a statement last week it was unaware of his
Sources close to the department of international relations and
co-operation say South Africa is happy that Ravalomanana is back in his
country. But his surprising return now forces Rajaonarimampianina to deal with
issues of reconciliation and of Ravalomanana’s conviction in absentia to 25
years hard labour for the deaths of protestors during the 2009 coup.
A senior government official said he used a fake passport and that home
affairs had no record of him leaving the country. The international relations
department refused to comment and the home affairs department said it had “no
idea about that”.
Ivor Jenkins, of the political consultancy In Transformation
Initiative, said Rajaonarimampianina would either have to pardon the former
president or grant him amnesty so that the country could move forward and
resolve its deep-seated political problems.
Jenkins was part of a delegation that included former deputy minister
of international relations Ebrahim Ebrahim and veteran negotiator Roelf Meyer
that visited Madagascar at the invitation of Rajaonarimampianina in August this
“Our advice to the president was to get all the former presidents
around the table,” Jenkins said. “There is a coup in Madagascar roughly every eight years and the
challenge is to break that cycle.”
The group then met Ravalomanana in Johannesburg where it became clear
the former president believed he had huge support in his home country. That was
probably what prompted him to make threatening statements on his return,
The situation in Madagascar was still on a knife edge, Jenkins said,
and Ravalomanana could be relieved that there wasn’t more violence on his
return. A former coup leader, Andry Rajoelina, also still has widespread
support in the country. – Additional reporting by staff reporters
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