Morocco Phosphate Giant Accuses S.Africa of ‘piracy’

Morocco’s phosphate industry giant OCP on Thursday accused South Africa of “political piracy” by detaining a Moroccan cargo vessel loaded with phosphate from the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The South African judiciary had “passed an eminently political decision and committed a gross abuse of power”, Morocco’s state-run group said in a statement.

The 34,000-tonne ship bound for New Zealand via Port Elizabeth in South Africa has been blocked from sailing since the start of May following a court application seeking that the vessel return its cargo.

The application filed by the Polisario Front, which seeks the independence of Western Sahara, asks for the return of the phosphate “removed in contravention of the international principle”, said Webber Wintzel, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

OCP charged that the court ruling was “an act of political piracy committed under judicial cover”, in contravention of “elementary principles of international law”.

Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, when Rabat took over the desert territory before the signing of a UN-brokered ceasefire.

Rabat, which considers Western Sahara to be an integral part of Morocco, proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Polisario insists on an independence referendum.

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