Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘If NPA can prove there’s no evidence in court then so be it’ – Mkhwebane on Mbalula’s Dubai trip

Mbalula's Dubai trip was investigated by the Office of the Public Protector in 2018.

Former public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane has questioned the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to decline to prosecute African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula over his Dubai trip.

In 2016, Mbalula embarked on a holiday to the city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with his family.

It emerged afterward that the trip, amounting to a total of R680 000, was purportedly financed by Sedgars Sports, a company engaged in business with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

Sascoc operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Sports and Recreation.

The ANC secretary-general, who was the Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture at the time, claimed the money he received from Sedgars Sports was a loan.

Mkhwebane ‘shocked’ by NPA decison

In an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Friday, Mkhwebane said she was surprised by the NPA’s move when considering the evidence.

“It was shocking to discover that the National Prosecuting Authority decided not to prosecute because there was evidence which we relied on as the Public Protector that Mr Mbalula received that free donation which he later turned into a loan.

“That was also paid in cash, and we were questioning the R150 000 cash which he paid to a travel agent. He was alleging that he is paying back R680 000 which he got from Sedgars, the company which paid for his family trip.

ALSO READ: Hawks dismiss claims of falling short in investigating Mbalula Dubai trip

“So, I think that violated the financial intelligence laws because as a South African, there is an amount of cash which you are allowed to be carrying around.

“We wanted them to look into that part, but then they decided not to prosecute,” the former public protector said.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP stressed that money did not come from any of Mbalula’s bank accounts.

“If they are saying there’s no evidence and they can prove that in court, since AfriForum is taking the matter to court, then so be it.”

AfriForum allegations

Mkhwebane stated that AfriForum’s claims of collusion between witnesses and the South African Police Service (Saps), as well as the allegation that Mbalula was being “protected”, needed to be substantiated with concrete evidence.

“It can be an issue which can be looked into, but I think their focus should also be on whether the money was not acquired through nefarious means.”

READ MORE: NPA decision not prosecute Mbalula ‘irrational and wrong in law’ – AfriForum

She further emphasised the significance of law such as the Executive Ethics Act.

“You cannot allow private people or businesses to pay for your trip, especially [considering] the expensive costs which were incurred at the time and at the end of the day, you expect that person to be independent, to perform their responsibilities and not to be captured.

“I mean if a person pays for your trip with so much money, they would definitely expect you to do favours,” she added.

Public protector report

The scandal was investigated by the Office of the Public Protector in 2018.

The resulting report concluded that Mbalula violated the Executive Ethics Act, as he failed to disclose who paid for the trip, which is required by law.

Mkhwebane had referred the matter to the NPA to investigate whether the funds used for the trip were not the proceeds of crime.

However, in August 2023, the NPA declined to prosecute Mbalula, stating that their investigation found no evidence of criminality.

AfriForum has since decided to challenge the NPA’s decision by pursuing a private prosecution.

Mbalula has since criticised the lobby group for pursuing the prosecution, while the Hawks has denied claims of the police not investigating the matter properly.

NOW READ: Mbalula ‘politically shielded’ from Dubai trip prosecution – AfriForum