With the 2019 general elections around the corner, the ANC’s head of elections Fikile Mbalula’s lies have caught up with him after the public protector found he was dishonest about who was responsible for paying for his R680 000 Dubai trip two years ago.
Following investigations into his family holiday with his wife and three children, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that roughly half of the trip was paid for by Sedgars Sport, a supplier of sportswear for the country’s athletics, boxing and beach volleyball teams.
Sedgars provides the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), a confederation under the department of sports and recreation.
As then minister of sports and recreation, Mbalula took his family to Dubai between December 28, 2016 and January 3, 2017.
Mkhwebane, however, found that as a member of the executive, Mbalula had violated the Executive Ethics Code and acted “irresponsibly” by going on a trip without knowing whether he could afford it or not.
Mbalula’s first lie back in October 2017 was that his family had not received gifts or sponsorships for the trip and that the entire trip with was funded by “family resources.”
But it turned out that none of his family nor his office arranged for the trip. Instead, it was booked by a Mr Siweya on behalf of the former minister, with Munlin Travel, Mkhwebane found.
“In his response, dated November 17, 2017, Mbalula makes no mention of Mr Siweya or his relations to him.
“However, in his November 30, 2018 response as well as the meeting of December 5, 2018, he confirmed that Mr Siweya was not asked by him to do the bookings but did so of his own volition,” the public protector said.
While Mbalula claimed he had received a loan from a Yusuf Dockrat to cover the costs of the five-day holiday, evidence showed otherwise.
“Evidence in my possession indicates that the payments for the trip commenced only in February 2017 following repeated demands from Jennifer Baylis [of Munlin Travel] for the minister to settle the costs related to the trip.”
Mbalula stated he entered into a “loan agreement” with his longtime friend Dockrat, who lent him R300 000 through a bank account of one of his family entities, Reimon Uniforms, to be paid to the travel agent in October last year. Mbalula then paid back a total of R275 000 into the bank account.
But Dockrat was a director of Sedgars, and Mbalula seemingly took the loan after being pressured by the travel agent.
The former minister also claimed he did not know what business Dockrat ran.
“What is peculiar about this loan agreement is that it was entered into after the fact and when Mr Mbalula could not pay for the trip when demands were made by the travel agent for payment.
“Having considered their submissions, I do not accept that the arrangement between them constitutes a loan agreement. There is absolutely no way that he could have a friend of 20 years and not know what kind of business he is running.”
Mkhwebane said she would not be taking any remedial action against the now ANC head of elections as he was no longer a member of Cabinet.
“I direct the national director of public prosecutions to take urgent and appropriate steps to investigate whether the funds used to pay for Mbalula’s trip were not proceeds of money laundering.”
ANC acting spokesperson Dakota Legoete said the party would interrogate the findings as it implicated their head of elections.
“Mbalula reserves the right to take the matter on review and we will be advised by him on what course of action to take forward.”