‘Minister should repay money’

2011-09-16 12:42

A minister, whose handbag drama in Norway cost South African taxpayers more than R200 000, should pay back the money out of her own pocket, the DA said today.

“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,” DA spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko said.

“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,” she said.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane refused to have her handbag passed through an x-ray scanner at an airport in Oslo this month, the Mail & Guardian reported. She was there on a state visit.

As a result of the handbag drama, 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.

Her department 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.

“[There was nothing in her handbag] which could not be disclosed. This matter was not about the contents of the luggage. It’s a matter of principle,” Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela told the publication.

The DA said Nkoana-Mashabane should also reimburse her department for the cost of the flight she missed.

“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.”

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