SA diplomat fails to torpedo misconduct probe

2015-03-01 15:00

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A high-level team has been sent to Cameroon to probe allegations of misconduct and maladministration levelled at SA high commissioner Zanele Makina.

Makina mysteriously disappeared late last year after racking up a R39?000 bill at a luxury hotel.

Makina, who was posted to Cameroon in 2013, also owes the department of international relations and cooperation €18?000 (R230?000) for salary overpayments she allegedly received since arriving in that country.

The department dispatched the team to look into the allegations of misconduct and rampant maladministration against Makina.

According to diplomatic sources, the director-general, on the instructions of the minister, dispatched a team – led by the chief director responsible for central Africa, Graham Maitland, and the chief director of human resources management support, Mmathari Mashao – to investigate the string of allegations against Makina and advise the minister and the department on remedial steps and corrective measures that need to be taken.

The team is said to have arrived in the capital Yaoundé on February 15. They returned to South Africa on February 20. They spent the entire week interviewing staff at the embassy.

“An urgent memo was sent to the embassy urging everyone, including the high commissioner, to not take leave during this period, so as to avail themselves for interviews by the team,” said a diplomatic source working closely with the team.

The source said the team had gathered evidence that could possibly lead to Makina being recalled.

Makina was allegedly confrontational with the investigative team, with allegations that she attempted to sabotage the team’s work.

Highly placed sources at the embassy said she intimidated staff and also sought to interfere with the mandate of the investigation team by preventing a meeting between the team and the management of The Hilton in Yaoundé, the hotel where she racked up the R39?000 unpaid bill.

Those who witnessed the incident said the team – which had made an appointment with management at the hotel – arrived there to find Makina had pre-empted them and arranged her own meeting with the manager. She allegedly tried to bar the investigating team from speaking to the manager.

“It was at this point that she threw tantrums, accusing the team of a witch-hunt and arguing that the hotel and travel debts were personal matters between her, the hotel and the travel agency,” said the source.

But evidence of her unsettled hotel bill was presented to the team, including a letter from the hotel addressed to her and the embassy terminating a special arrangement between the hotel and the department of international relations, which guaranteed discounted rates for travelling South African diplomats.

“It is the view of the department that, by virtue of her irresponsible conduct and reckless expenditure, the matter of her debts is no longer a personal issue since it affects the decorum of the diplomatic office. She is there representing South Africa and, whatever she does in her personal capacity, if unbecoming of the high commissioner, it surely reflects negatively on the image of the diplomatic office and, by implication, on the department and the country,” said the diplomat.

Department spokesperson Clayson Monyela confirmed an investigating team had been sent to Cameroon.

“The team is still busy with its work. This is an internal process,” he said.

Makina refused to comment.

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