Handbag furore: Matter of principle

2011-09-16 22:26
Johannesburg - The contents of International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane's handbag are not up for discussion, her spokesperson said on Friday.

"I can't believe you are asking that," Clayson Monyela said when asked why she recently refused to have her handbag scanned at an airport in Norway.

"It's not an issue we want to debate... She was strong and defended her principle, and we have moved on from there."

Monyela said the Vienna Convention exempted diplomats from luggage searches at airports, and the minister - as the country's top diplomat - was right to stand her ground.

"At every airport, no diplomats are searched. This is why she refused."

The minister's handbag drama in Norway cost South African taxpayers more than R200 000.

Nkoana-Mashabane, who was on a state visit to that country earlier this month, refused to have her bag passed through an X-ray scanner at an airport in Oslo, the Mail & Guardian reported.

As a result, she missed her scheduled commercial flight to her next diplomatic engagement in Bulgaria. A private-charter executive jet, which cost R235 343, was then hired to transport her.

It was unclear what she was carrying in her handbag and why she was keen to avoid security screening.

The Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front Plus expressed outrage over the incident.

DA spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko said Nkoana-Mashabane should pay back the money out of her own pocket.

"Yet again, ordinary South Africans have had to foot the bill for the vanity and excesses of those who are meant to be public servants.

"Government ministers should be subject to the same security regulations as every other airline passenger, and there should be no provision that allows members of the executive to bill the public for their superiority complexes."

The DA also wanted her to reimburse her department for the cost of the flight she missed, as it resulted in her missing the meeting in Bulgaria.

"It is time for members of our government to understand that they are not more important than the citizens they serve," Mazibuko said in a statement.

"The handbag incident underscores just how out of touch this government is with the economic realities of the majority of South Africans."

FF Plus spokesperson Corné Mulder said the minister could have handled the situation differently.

"It is absurd that South Africa has to waste money because the minister insisted on her right to diplomatic immunity," he said in a statement.

"She could have seen to it that her political counterpart in Oslo was contacted immediately to resolve the situation."

She should have allowed her handbag through the scanner so as to not miss her flight, said Mulder.

He asked why the South African embassy in Oslo had not made prior arrangements to prevent the "embarrassing and expensive" situation.

Read more on:    da  |  corne mulder  |  maite nkoana-mashabane  |  clayson monyela  |  politics

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Prince George the green prince?

Prince Charles hopes his grandson's love of the outdoors will become a passion for the environment.



One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa
China's air pollution at doomsday levels
Keep food fresher for longer
Hurricanes, earthquakes and floods – What climate change really means for us

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly


The full moon energy can be quite intense today as your emotions fight against reason. It is important to ground your ideas and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.