South Africa tackles France over alleged ill treatment of opera star Pretty Yende in Paris
By Jonisayi Maromo – iol 15h ago
PRETORIA – The South African embassy in Paris has written to French authorities requesting an explanation after world renowned South African opera star Pretty Yende was left “traumatised” after being detained at Charles de Gaulle international airport.
The artist has accused French immigration authorities of racial discrimination.
On Thursday, South Africa’s department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) said the government has noted the incident on Monday with concern.
“The South African Embassy in Paris has written to French authorities seeking an explanation and requesting a thorough investigation into the matter. This is after Ms Yenda was detained by French police at the airport for almost three hours based on an allegation that her Italian residence permit was not valid,” Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela said in a statement.
He said Yende’s long-term European Union resident status, issued in February 2015 by the police headquarters in Milan and with unlimited validity, was provided by article 9 of the Consolidated Immigration Act and regularly issued in accordance with the European Directive 2003 implemented by Italy and France.
Musica highlights 2020: Benjamin Bernheim and Pretty Yende shine as doomed loversAs curtains have come down in most of Europe’s theatres, Musica takes you back to a magnificent production which premiered this spring – the reimagining of Jules Massenet’s ‘Manon’ – that showed at the Opéra Bastille in Paris . The latest operatic production by Vincent Huguet transforms Massenet’s original creation, based on a novel by Abbé Prévost, into something…
Yende had informed the South African embassy in Paris that she was verbally abused by the police and her rights and dignity violated during the ordeal, Monyela added.
“The unfortunate incident took place during Ms Yende’s return to Paris to perform at the Theatre Des Champs-Elysees,” he said.
“Further to the correspondence by the South African Embassy in Paris, (Dirco) will demarche the French Ambassador to South Africa based in Pretoria to convey its displeasure at the treatment of Ms Yende.”
In international relations, a démarche is a petition or protest presented through diplomatic channels.
Yende took to social media on Tuesday, accusing French customs agents of treating her with “outrageous racial discrimination”.
“Police brutality is real for someone who looks like me. I’ve always read about it on the news, and most of my brothers and sisters end up being tortured and some fatal cases make headlines and dead bodies suddenly appear with made-up stories,” the 36-year-old posted.
She said she was “in shock and traumatised” and came out of the situation because of one phone call.
The soprano alleges that Paris customs agents took all of her belongings, including her cellphone, and told her to write down the phone numbers of her close family members and friends to call with a landline phone in the retention cell.
“They said they were going to take me to a ‘prison hotel’ in the meantime, while they looked at me like I was a criminal offender,” The Star newspaper quoted her as saying.
Yende said she informed the agents that her phone battery was dying and requested a charger, but this was denied.
“I said ‘What?’ and he continued and said ‘Listen to me until I finish’ with a very harsh and condescending tone. I replied ‘Am I a prisoner?’ and he rudely said ’Yes’,” Yende said, recounting her conversation with one official.
She then decided to comply, do what the customs officials said, and not try to “defend” herself on French soil.
“I was stripped and searched like a criminal offender and put in the retention cell … It was cold in there, there was no light at the beginning, cold and grey. They left me there alone with the landline phone and a piece of paper they gave me to write down phone numbers of those I could call,” Yende alleged.
She added that the officials allegedly refused to address her in English and she could hear them talking and laughing down the hallway.