First lady’s lost jewels

2013-05-07 00:00

PRESIDENTIAL wife Thobeka Madiba-­Zuma sought compensation of R500 000 from SA Airlink after uninsured jewellery was allegedly stolen from her suitcase during a flight.

After a thorough investigation, Airlink denied the claim, saying its employees had nothing to do with the missing jewellery.

The airline found no evidence that the baggage was tampered with while it was in their hands, sister paper Beeld has learned.

Madiba-Zuma is President Jacob Zuma’s fifth wife. Last week she attended the Gupta wedding clad in a traditional Indian outfit.

The theft allegedly took place on December 15 last year, when Madiba-Zuma flew from Nelspruit to O.R. Tambo before travelling by car to Bloemfontein to attend the ANC’s elective conference.

On December 18, she drew up a statement that the 36 expensive pieces had been packed in a cream cosmetic bag and placed in her orange Cellini case, which had no lock.

“After we arrived [in Bloemfontein], we were in a hurry to go to dinner. That was the first time I opened the case and realised that the cosmetic bag with all my exclusive jewellery was missing,” reads Madiba-Zuma’s statement.

On January 5, SA Airlink received a handwritten letter, on Madiba-Zuma’s presidential letterhead, in which she emphasised the “urgency” of the matter.

The claim contained a list of the missing items, a valuation from Durban jeweller Forever Jewellery for some of the items and a copy of her flight ticket.

Among the items were a diamond bracelet worth R185 000, two white diamond sets (more than R60 000 each) and a white gold and diamond ring in the shape of a snake (R20 000).

Airlink CEO Rodger Foster refused to entertain the claim after the available CCTV material showed that the case had not been tampered with while it was in the hands of the airline.

“We also subjected all employees to polygraph tests, which showed that they were not involved in the alleged theft of Mrs Zuma’s valuable items,” Foster wrote in a letter to the presidency that Beeld has had sight of.

SA Airlink declined to comment to Beeld.

In an e-mail on Sunday evening, Madiba-Zuma said her office informed the Airports Company of SA of the loss on December 16.

“I prepared a private statement on December 18, which was given to all the relevant parties, including SAA Airlink,” she wrote.

“An investigation was then done. I was advised to prepare a claim with a list of items and valuations, which I did on January 5, 2013.”

After she received the airline’s letter, she asked her lawyers to consider her legal position and advise her further, she said.

“The investigation is being done and I am waiting for the final outcome and my lawyers’ final advice before deciding what to do.

“My personal jewellery was unfortunately not insured,” Madiba-Zuma said.

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