Minister of international relations & co-operation Naledi Pandor. Picture: SOWETAN/VELI NHLAPO
Minister of international relations & co-operation Naledi Pandor. Picture: SOWETAN/VELI NHLAPO

The DA is pushing for an amendment to the foreign services bill that would see diplomats abroad held personally liable for damages to properties they use.

DA MP Darren Bergman said this was necessary due to “the trail of destruction left by ambassadors abroad”, which in some instances had tarnished SA’s reputation.

“Diplomacy is about building relations and respect with foreign nations, but this has not been the case with some diplomats,” he said.

In one incident, SA diplomat David Nkosi allegedly left a property in Vienna, Austria, badly damaged in August 2020.

In a written parliamentary response about the incident, department of international relations & co-operation minister Naledi Pandor said the damage amounted to R714,000.

“The department was advised by the mission there are no arrangements made to pay back damages as the mission did not agree with the landlord’s claim,” Pandor said in response to questions by Bergman.

“A request for a legal opinion has been submitted with a view to getting guidance on the legal options available to the department to recover the debt.”

The DA highlighted in March that an Austrian TV show had flighted an exposé on the state in which Nkosi had left his luxury rented apartment. The department was still reeling from other property scandals involving officials in New York and Los Angeles.

In the TV show, the property owner had threatened to take legal action.

AfriForum had in March also written to Pandor expressing their concern. They said apartment owner Karl Widy alleged that all the electrical appliances in the kitchen were destroyed and valuable cutlery was missing.

Widy said there were no glasses left in the apartment, the window frames and door frames were damaged, the sink, bath and toilet were stained, the walls and floors were dirty and stained with black soot, and there was a cockroach infestation.

This was not the first time that Nkosi had damaged a  property on a mission abroad. Before his deployment to Vienna, he was in India and allegedly damaged a rented property there.

That damage amounted to about R53,000 and Pandor said the department had paid that bill. The department wrote to Nkosi earlier in May requesting that he pay it back. 

“No amount has been recovered from the official. However, an e-mail was sent on May 14 2021 to advocate Nkosi in an attempt to recover the amount paid for damages in India,” Pandor said. 

In another parliamentary response, Pandor revealed the department had lost millions in unreturned rental deposits for 101 properties rented for officials abroad over the past five years. Pandor said the deposits amounted to nearly R9.4m.

“The reasons for not receiving back the deposits are damages to properties and deposits used by the landlord for maintenance work and repairs to damages,” she said. 

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