SAA staffer hid drugs in undies
Erika Gibson, Beeld
Johannesburg – The South African Airways cabin crew member who was caught with 3kg of cocaine at Heathrow airport, apparently hid the drugs in her underwear.
Elphia "Tshidi" Dlamini, 42, was the cabin co-ordinator of the flight, meaning she was the most senior cabin crew official on board.
The captain of the flight happened to be the same captain whose crew came under fire in February last year when a shipment of 5kg of cocaine was found in the luggage of cabin crew members at the same airport.
The matter was not pursued as the owner of the bag could not be positively identified.
A month before this, SAA also made news headlines when 50kg dagga and 4kg cocaine was found in cabin crew's luggage.
SAA spokesperson Fani Zulu said the rest of the crew were allowed to resume their duties on Saturday as the drugs this time had been found on a particular person. The crew flew back to South Africa on Monday evening.
Dlamini, who is from Cape Town, is believed to be related to a prominent family in South Africa. She has been working for SAA for 14 years.
The drugs were found after a sniffer dog identified her during a random search at Heathrow, Beeld learned.
According to acquaintances, Dlamini recently told how had hidden £1 000 (about R11 400) under her hotel bed's mattress on a previous trip to London and had forgotten it there.
The hotel contacted her and said the money would be kept for her.
"It is strange that a cabin crew official can play with so much money and it made all of us wonder," a friend told Beeld.
The British customs agency confirmed on Monday that Dlamini had been charged with drug smuggling.
She appeared in a court in Uxbridge.
Zulu confirmed that stricter safety measures were put in place to search cabin crew's luggage before flights after last year's incidents. The measures were however not extended to personal searches as drugs, as far as was known, had not been smuggled like this before.
Zulu said SAA was giving its full co-operation to British investigators and supported the most stringent law enforcement possible.
After the two previous drug incidents, in which SAA cabin crew members had been implicated, pilots had pleaded for stricter measures to prevent smuggling as it could harm their careers, but they were unable to do anything about it.