An exposé in the Sunday Times has raised questions about government’s vetting process of senior officials.
The paper reported that South Africa’s high commissioner to Singapore, Hazel Francis Ngubeni, was sacked by SAA after being jailed in New York for smuggling a bag of cocaine.
Ngubeni spent two years in a US prison between 1999 and 2001, but did not disclose her conviction when she was nominated for the diplomatic post in 2013.
She passed her security vetting process by the State Security Agency after being nominated by unnamed ’senior political leadership’.
The Sunday Times reported that Ngubeni claimed to not have a criminal record.
Ngubeni admitted the conviction to the Sunday Times – but claimed she had been wrongfully imprisoned after a “strange bag was found in my luggage”.
However, the former SAA employee was previously arrested in 1995 at OR Tambo International Airport and charged with smuggling 9kg of heroin from Thailand.
A fellow cabin crew member claimed that Ngubeni had asked him to carry one of her bags into South Africa, where drugs were found stashed in a false compartment.
The pair were acquitted in January 1997 after a key witness, reported to be a Mozambican diplomat, refused to testify against Ngubeni.
Department of International Relations spokesman Nelson Kgwete said the department would “look into all the matters … and will work with all relevant state agencies to establish facts.”
“The security vetting process for all our diplomats is a process that the relevant agencies are constantly reviewing with the intention of improving to avoid gaps and discrepancies.”