South Africa has not sent planes to Libya to allow its embattled leader Moamer Kadhafi to leave the country, Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Monday.
“The South Africa government would like to refute and dispel the rumours and claims that it has sent planes to Libya to fly Colonel Kadhafi and his family to an undisclosed location,” she told reporters.
“Nobody has asked for asylum in South Africa, and as far as Johannesburg is aware, Kadhafi remains in Libya, she added.
There had been persistent rumours that South Africa had sought to convince Kadhafi to choose exile earlier in the six-month-old uprising against his four-decade rule.
But with world leaders pushing for the Libyan leader to face justice in the International Criminal Court, the South Africa foreign minister insisted her country was not about to welcome him on its soil.
“The only South African planes which have been sent in these parts of the world were to evacuate South African embassy staff,” she said.
Venezuela has also been rumoured as a possible exile destination for Kadhafi, should he decide to flee.
South Africa currently hosts former Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted in March 2009 coup, and also gave former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide shelter until March this year.
“The future of Kadhafi should be decided by Libyans…,” Nkoana-Mashabane stressed.
South Africa continues to talks to both parties in Libya but “as peace brokers we have got no reason to create a state within the state.”
Heavy fighting raged Monday near Kadhafi’s Tripoli compound the day after jubilant rebel forces surged into the symbolic heart of the capital.
“With the imminent fall of the government of Colonel Kadhafi, we wish to urge the interim authorities in Tripoli to immediately institute an all-inclusive inter-Libyan political dialogue aimed at building a truly representative and people-centred dispensation” the foreign minister said in Johannesburg.
“At the moment, as far as we are concerned, if this government falls, there is no government,” she said.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane added however that contacts made with the warring parties would allow for a smooth transition.
“So we are anticipating that if the Tripoli government falls there will be some semblance of authority that will be formed including elements of the (National Transitional Council) and from Tripoli,” she said.
A high-level African Union committee will meet Thursday to consider the situation in Libya, Nkoana-Mashabane said, adding that she was “very proud” of how the continent had handled the crisis so far.
An AU roadmap out of the Libyan crisis remains on the table, she added.
“Consistent with the AU roadmap we believe that the way forward should include the drafting of a new constitution under the supervision of the transitional government, the holding of a referendum on the new constitution leading to the first ever democratic elections in Libya.”
There was no immediate reaction from the African Union itself, which had initially backed Kadhafi, who founded the pan-African organisation in its current form and financed it generously.