Times are tough here in South Africa, and any cent that is budgeted towards the SAA rescue plan (not a bailout, remember), for example, has to come from somewhere. In SAA’s case, that’s healthcare, police, schools, and other budgets slashed so politicians can fly around on our national carrier, but I’m sure the kids using pit toilets are delighted to hear that SAA is well looked after. If you manage to score a gig as a South African foreign diplomat, it’s not just free flights that come your way. The sheer size of allowances diplomats living abroad receive has long been criticised, and still, for some, the lavish lifestyle is just not enough.
In the case of Los Angeles consul-general Thandile Sunduza, our country’s top diplomat in the US city, the Sunday Times reports that she stands accused of rejecting more than 30 properties that have been offered to her by the department of international relations (Dirco). You may recall her name from that infamous SONA dress kerfuffle back in 2014. Sunduza, it seems, has her heart set on the ultra-plush Rodeo Drive, where the Hollywood elite rest their heads, and has been making ridiculous requests that have put off potential landlords:
As head of the South African mission in LA, Sunduza is tasked with promoting SA as an investment destination. The US is SA’s third-largest trading partner. But the accommodation scandal has raised questions about her suitability for the job… Since January the South African government has spent more than R650,000 on temporary accommodation for Sunduza in a series of apartments. The state has budgeted R238,253 a month for her permanent home, but department officials said she wants to spend more than R260,000 of taxpayers’ money per month.
Let that sink in – she wants to spend in excess of around $16 000 a month on her residence alone. Sunduza has clashed with officials since her arrival in January – in particular, senior consular official Shadrack Nepfumbada – and has been accused of gross incompetence.
An investigation has been opened by international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor, with details of the dispute emerging during last week’s parliamentary committee on international relations. If one believes Sunduza, Nepfumbada is trying to “destroy”, “sabotage”, and “frustrate” her, but he tells a very different story: Reports compiled by Nepfumbada paint a picture of an incompetent, unsuitable and uncouth diplomat… “It seems that her main focus is to find a big house located in Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills areas and that’s what has consumed her time,” reads the e-mail…
“Another house we lost because the consul-general requested the landlord to import furniture and carpets from Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey,” Nepfumbada writes. He goes on to claim that Sunduza constantly name-drops President Ramaphosa in order to try and get her way, and embarrasses other staff when there are visitors to the Consulate.
These allegations have reportedly been refuted by Sunduza. South Africans in Los Angeles and surrounding areas spoke with SA People about how inefficient their dealings with the Consulate have been, “despite continued phone calls, emails and even visits to the office”. That is a story familiar to many South Africans across the globe, with “as many as 70% of South Africa’s heads of mission…apparently political appointments, often with no training to run an embassy abroad”. You can find a full list of the recent woes related to our diplomats here.
Just embarrassing, really.
Main Phpto: Thandile sunduza /SApeople.com