Cope chief whip in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Dennis Bloem has expressed shock and surprise at the arrest of MP Dirk Feldman while on board a flight to Mumbai this weekend, saying the incident was “completely out of character”.
“This is not the Dirk Feldman I know. I really don’t know what went wrong on this trip,” an embarrassed Bloem said on Monday, amid reports that Feldman had tried to open an emergency door after reportedly having too much to drink soon after leaving for an official trip to India.
Feldman, an NCOP MP from Gauteng, was part of an official multiparty parliamentary delegation to India on Saturday when, according to reports, he started behaving badly and tried to open the door of the SAA aircraft.
He was briefly detained by security officials in India and later ordered to return home by National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and NCOP chairman Mninwa Mahlangu.
“This was not his first trip. He is one of the people we really depend on when we send delegations,” Bloem said.
He described Feldman as a “hard-working and humble” MP and a conscientious member of the NCOP’s committees on labour, human settlements and tourism.
Feldman had spent “an entire month” in Lesotho last month as part of a multiparty delegation representing the Southern African Development Community to monitor the elections there, and had travelled to many other countries to work.
“This is the first time we have heard of this kind of problem with him. All I can say is that it is out of character and I am shocked and surprised.”
Bloem said he was awaiting a report from Mahlangu before deciding on what action to take.
In a statement issued earlier on Monday, Bloem said Cope regretted and “feels sorry about” the incident.
“If there is evidence of bad behaviour, he will be brought before a disciplinary hearing as soon as possible.
“If it is warranted, we will not waste any time in dealing with this matter because we are very serious about discipline in Cope.”
Feldman was expected back in SA on Tuesday.
In a statement on Monday, the office of ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said it had noted “with regret and disappointment” the incident of misconduct involving Feldman.
“Such conduct is unacceptable for a member of Parliament, regardless of the party he or she belongs to, as it undermines the integrity of the institution and the respect our people have in it. It is even worse when it happens during an official overseas trip, as it places this Parliament and the country in a negative light both internationally and at home,” he said.