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How does a convicted drug mule get appointed to any position of authority, let alone to the role of ambassador in a country where the death penalty is standard for trafficking and she has access to a diplomatic pouch? And, how does she remain in situ, despite an outcry? These are some of the questions raised in Parliament by Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers who, quite rightly, is calling for heads to roll in connection with this matter. The appointment of former SAA cabin attendant Hazel Francis Ngubeni, aka Francis McDonald, as South Africa’s High Commissioner in Singapore stinks to high heaven. In particular it raises questions about the extent to which the most senior South African politicians may be involved in the international drug trade. This is not the first time senior government ministers have been fingered in the global drug-trafficking underworld. In 2011, Sheryl Cwele – wife of South Africa’s intelligence minister Siyabonga Cwele – was sentenced to 12 years in prison for recruiting women to smuggle drugs into the country. Cwele was later moved to the role as minister of telecommunications, while a number of intelligence operatives believed to be loyal to him were shifted into the international relations ministry. The Ngubeni appointment adds to a picture of a government that has lost its way ethically and legally, and signals, yet again, that a massive shake-up at the top of the ANC – along with prosecutions for those who have broken the law – is long overdue. – Jackie Cameron
By Paul Herman
Cape Town – The deputy minister of international relations has asked Parliament to take firm action against both his department and the State Security Agency (SSA) for allowing a former convicted drug trafficker to become an ambassador.
The department presented before the portfolio committee on international relations and co-operation on Wednesday to account for its 2015/16 annual report.
On the agenda was also a discussion on the hiring of High Commissioner to Singapore Hazel Francis Ngubeni.
The Sunday Times reported earlier in October that Ngubeni had been convicted in New York of smuggling a bag of cocaine in 1999 while working as a cabin attendant for SAA.
She was sentenced to two years in a US prison and released in 2001, but did not disclose her conviction when applying for her diplomatic post in 2013. She went by the name Francis McDonald in the 1990s.
‘It’s an absolute disgrace’
Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers was critical of the appointment when asked by the committee, and said her hiring was a disgrace.
“How did this person become an ambassador for the Republic of South Africa?” he said.
Did you know your ambassador to Singapore, Hazel Francis Ngubeni, is a convicted drug trafficker who lied about her criminal record?
— A.O (@PILLAY_CGLM) October 3, 2016
“It’s an outrage, a total outrage.”
“This portfolio committee has raised issues in the past about ambassadors, but this is probably the worst case we’ve had to deal with.
“It’s an absolute disgrace, and I say this in my capacity as deputy minister.”
‘This is not about politics’
The SSA withdrew Ngubeni’s security clearance on October 7, but with only two months left of her three-year term, it was “a laugh” and of little consequence, Landers said.
He said both the department and the SSA had a case to answer for hiring Ngubeni and he asked the committee to take firm action when holding those responsible for her hiring to account.
“This is not about politics, this is about South Africa and its relations with people,” he said.
“Now when we send a new ambassador somewhere, what are they going to say about us?”
He also said a diplomat has access to a “diplomatic pouch”, which can only be opened by a High Commissioner.
9kg of heroin
It was unacceptable that someone convicted of drug smuggling could be the only one with access to it in that country, he said.
MPs thanked Landers for his honesty, and his desire to get to the bottom of it.
Now that Sbu Ndebele has resigned. When is Hazel Francis Ngubeni resigning? We can't have convicted drug trafficker as a High Commissioner!!
— LesetjaMO (@MoLesetja) October 6, 2016
The Sunday Times also reported that Ngubeni was arrested on September 20 1995, at OR Tambo International Airport and charged with smuggling 9kg of heroin into South Africa from Thailand, but was acquitted in 1997.
She is the daughter of late MK operative Michael Mpandeni Ngubeni and had been nominated by “senior political leadership” in 2013.
The SSA spokesperson told News24 on Thursday that the matter was being investigated, but couldn’t comment further on the developments. – News24
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