Late stop to Blade’s Cuba trip

The Department of Higher ­Education and Training has hastily cancelled flight tickets for minister Blade Nzimande for a trip to Cuba that was ­queried by outgoing director-general Mary Metcalfe.

The trip was to coincide with a visit by SA Communist Party (SACP) officials to Cuba. ­Nzimande is secretary-general of the SACP.

An official in the department told City Press that an instruction was issued at the last minute to cancel the booking for the trip. It’s not clear what Nzimande wanted to do in Cuba, or if he was travelling for party or government work.

Nzimande’s adviser, Gwebs Qonde, would not say whether there had been a last-minute cancellation of flight bookings.

“What do you mean last-minute cancellation? Cancellation is cancellation. From time to time we review any of our programmes,” he said.

Last week City Press reported Metcalfe’s imminent departure from the department as a result of collapsed relations with Nzimande. The department denied there was a fallout.

Metcalfe and Nzimande jointly issued a press statement saying that Metcalfe would leave her job at the end of next April.

The Department of Public Service and Administration is already finalising the ­termination of her services.

An official in the department said Metcalfe was now negotiating the termination of her contract and was reluctant to demand payment for the remainder of her contract. When she leaves she will still have 18 months of her three-year contract remaining.

Qonde denied there was any talk of a golden handshake.

“There was no decision made to that effect so we cannot discuss the question of a golden handshake or payout,” he said.

He said Metcalfe would be leaving in terms of an “arrangement and agreement that they (her and Nzimande) will or have arrived at”.

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