According to his office, the mayor -- who was sworn in on Wednesday -- left Thursday and will be on vacation out of state through July 10.
A city hall source told The Times the mayor will attend a summit in Cape Town and Johannesburg sponsored by the Academy of Achievement. The event will assemble graduate students from around the globe to meet with the "greatest thinkers and achievers of the age," the group's Web site stated.
The mayor was one of 25 recipients of the academy's Golden Plate award, recognizing people of exceptional achievement in 2006, the newspaper reported. Villaraigosa also attended the academy summit last year in Hawaii, The Times reported.
The lead patron of the academy is the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. EduCap, a student loan charity founded by Catherine and Wayne Reynolds and affiliated with the academy recently came under scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service and Congress, the newspaper reported.
According to the newspaper, EduCap allegedly abused its tax-exempt status by giving lavish perks to executives and providing non-foundation related trips on a corporate jet to prominent Washington D.C. political figures, including former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD).
President Barack Obama initially nominated Daschle to become Secretary of Health and Human Services. But the former senator later withdrew his name from consideration because of tax-related questions.
City officials told The Times that Villaraigosa's travel expenses to South Africa are being paid for by the academy, as are the other invited guests. The city, however, is paying for the security detail accompanying the mayor.
The mayor's office declined to tell the newspaper whether Lu Parker, a KTLA-TV Channel 5 reporter whom Villariagosa is dating, accompanied him on the trip.
Villaraigosa designated City Council President Pro Tem Jan Perry to serve as acting mayor through Tuesday, because Council President Eric Garcetti is also out of state.
When Garcetti returns on Tuesday, he will take over as acting mayor through July 10.