Mbalula explains his ‘conflicting’ testimonies before the PP and Zondo Commission

Former Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula briefs media regarding transformation in Rugby at SASCOC house, 5 November 2015. Picture: Neil McCartney

Former Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula briefs media regarding transformation in Rugby at SASCOC house, 5 November 2015. Picture: Neil McCartney

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and evidence leader advocate Leah Gcabashe say the conflicting testimonies are concerning.

Former minister of sports and recreation Fikile Mbalula told former public protector Thuli Madonsela that he first heard of his appointment as minister from former president Jacob Zuma, which is in conflict with his testimony before the commission of inquiry into state capture on Friday.

Mbalula told the commission that he froze when Ajay Gupta told him of ministerial appointment.

Gupta, according to Mbalula, called to congratulate him of his appointment as minister of sports and recreation before he, Mbalula, knew about the promotion.

However, during an October 12, 2016, interview Mbalula had with Madonsela, who was investigating allegations of state capture, the former minister told the former public protector that Zuma had told him about his appointment as minister and that the former president’s adviser, Lakela Kaunda, had contacted him about the appointment.

The chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and the evidence leader at the inquiry on Friday, advocate Leah Gcabashe, said the conflicting testimonies were concerning.

Mbalula explained that Madonsela’s probe at the time stemmed from allegations made by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor that they had been offered ministerial positions by the Guptas.

This, Mbalula said, was what informed his “frame of mind” as he responded to the former public protector by telling her that, as per protocol, Zuma had informed him about the appointment and Kaunda had contacted him in relation to the appointment.

Mbalula said at the commission that the Guptas had neither offered him the position nor had he discussed it with any of the family members but had only received a call from Ajay Gupta who called to congratulate him on the appointment.

The former minister, however, acknowledged that he did not elaborate further to Madonsela about his revelation at an ANC NEC meeting of August 2011 that Ajay Gupta had called to congratulate him of his promotion before he knew about it, which he said he has sought to do in the affidavit before the commission.

Gcabashe said Mbalula was not being of assistance to the public protector because he focused on technicalities and semantics.

“It is not just a matter of semantics,” Mbalula said, reiterating that Madonsela’s probe at the time focused on whether anyone besides Zuma, in particular, the Guptas, had “offered” him the ministerial post and had “appointed” him as a minister.

Zondo said, while reading the transcript of the interview between Madonsela and Mbalula, he got the impression that Mbalula ought to have spoken to the former public protector about the call from Ajay Gupta and the ANC NEC meeting of August 2011 and that he further got the impression that Madonsela tried to get the answer from Mbalula as to whether Ajay Gupta or any other member of the Gupta family told the former minister in advance that he would be promoted.

“My frame of mind was about appointment and offering, which I rejected,” Mbalula repeated.

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