A top Indian diplomat’s five-year-old son was briefly held hostage in Durban after armed robbers invaded his official residence on Thursday. Official sources here confirmed the incident but said no physical harm was caused to anyone.
India has officially taken up the issue of security for its diplomats with the South African government.
According to agency reports, the family of India’s consul-general in Durban, Shashank Vikram, members of his domestic staff and a visiting teacher were held up at their residence on Innes Road. Among them were two children, aged five and 10. “They are OK but they were obviously traumatised,” said consul S K Pandey. “Nobody suffered physical harm,” he said.
A domestic worker’s cellphone, which was robbed, could provide clues to the incident of the robbery in the home of India’s consul-general in Durban, the Independent Online reported.
“A catastrophic lapse in security for such a high-profile diplomatic family is now being investigated at the highest levels after the consul general’s official residence, India House, in Morningside, was breached for the first time in its long history, and seemingly so easily,” it said in its report.
The robbers reportedly gained entry by derailing the entrance gate, a strategy used often in a spate of brazen robberies recently in affluent suburbs north of Durban.
In response to queries on the armed intrusion, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “Ensuring the safety and security of Indian diplomats/officials posted abroad and their families is a matter of highest priority for us. In the context of the incident, we have taken up the matter with the relevant authorities, and investigations are currently ongoing. We expect that the intruders will be arrested soon. External affairs minister has spoken to the consul general and inquired about the well-being of his family.”
Following the incident, India reminded South Africa of its duty to protect diplomatic staff and property, under the Vienna Convention. “Durban is home to us and we are very comfortable here. We never expected that such a thing would transpire. That is why I think it has come as a very rude shock. This is the first time India House has been intruded like this,” Vikram was quoted as saying by Independent Online.
“They took my youngest son hostage and also beat up my staff and they showed their guns to my wife,” he said. “We are still trying to come to terms about what has happened,” he said further as he expressed hope that Indian diplomats and India House would be provided adequate security.