Lobby group AfriForum laid criminal charges of money laundering and corruption against former sports minister Fikile Mbalula at the Brooklyn Police Station on Tuesday.
This comes after Sedgars Sport, a sports product supplier, allegedly raised between R300,000 and R680,000 for his family’s trip to Dubai in 2016 at a time when the company was doing business with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
Head of AfriForum’s anti-corruption unit Monique Taute said in a statement: “The minister went on holiday with ‘dirty money’ after all indications and took unfair advantage of his relationship with Sedgars; he has to account for it.
“No politician can be regarded as above the law, which is why AfriForum’s anti-corruption unit is of the opinion that it is in the public interest as well as in the interests of justice that the NPA persecutes him without fear, favour, or prejudice.”
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s investigation last year found that he was irresponsible and had indeed breached the executive ethics code for Cabinet members with conduct that was “grossly at odds” with the provisions of the constitution. He apparently had not known how much his holiday would cost, whether he could afford it, and who would ultimately pay for it.
He also changed his story on whether he was aware that a certain “Mr Siweya” had made the bookings for the trip through Munlin Travel.
Sedgars Sports allegedly channelled their money through an apparently inactive company called Reimon Uniforms.
Mbalula, his wife, and three children holidayed in Dubai from December 28, 2016, to January 3, 2017, at the flashy Atlantis, The Palm Hotel, which was developed by Sol Kerzner’s international company.
Mbalula issued a statement last year saying the trip was paid for using “private family financial resources”. He denied any involvement with the sports brand.
However, Mkhwebane found that the trip’s costs had escalated beyond R600,000 because the family had needed to travel first class due to a date change after initially being booked into business class. There were also no-show costs at the hotel due to the date change.
The final bill came to R684,620.39.
Mbalula had submitted to Mkhwebane that he expected to pay for the trip from selling a property and using family reserves. She said she found the need to sell a property to pay for a five-day holiday “odd” reasoning that was “quite concerning”.
She said Mbalula had been irresponsible in going on holiday without first paying for it and then needing to be hounded by the travel agent and debt collectors in the months that followed.
She said that Mbalula had been forced to approach his acquaintance Yusuf Dockrat, a director of Sedgars, to pay for the trip, as he did not have enough money. She found a “loan agreement” with Dockrat was inappropriate. She called it “peculiar” in that it came so long after the trip actually happened.
She found it was true that Dockrat paid R300,000 for Mbalula, who claimed to have then repaid the money.
Mkhwebane, however, agreed that there had been a conflict of interest and Mbalula should have declared it. She rejected Mbalula’s argument that he did not know Sedgars, since he’d known Dockrat for years.
She rejected the explanation that they had entered into a valid loan agreement. She said he would not have repaid the money without the matter being reported in the media.
Parliament’s member’s code of conduct requires parliamentarians to declare foreign travel, except “personal visits paid by the member, business visits unrelated to the member’s role as a public representative, and official and formal visits paid for by an organ of state or the member’s party”.
Mkhwebane found that the public interest had been undermined.
She did not recommend remedial action against Mbalula, as he’s no longer in Cabinet, but directed President Cyril Ramaphosa to share the findings with Cabinet to ensure they guard against similar conduct in future.
She also wants better training to take place among ministers and their deputies on the code they are subject to.
Mkhwebane also wants the source of R150,000 paid to the travel agency that arranged the trip, Munlin Travel, to be investigated. She also wants the source of the funds to be investigated by the National Prosecuting Authority as possibly being from money laundering.
(Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde, additional reporting by Charles Cilliers)