Mbalula caught on back foot

2012-10-23 00:00

SPORTS Minister Fikile Mbalula was caught on the back foot yesterday fending off reports that he had insulted President Jacob Zuma.

The Star quoted the former ANC Youth League president saying he had no time for Zuma, who married every week and thrived on corruption, among other things.

Mbalula denied he said those things attributed to him, “particularly the statement about President Zuma”.

“At no stage of our conversation did I refer to President Zuma as marrying every week in and out and being politically bankrupt,” Mbalula said.

“This is absolute nonsense and must be dismissed as such. It is not in my nature and political upbringing to be disrespectful to others and to play the man and not the ball, because anything of this sort would amount to cheap politics and character assassination,” he added.

Asked by The Witness what action he was considering, Mbalula said: “I’m looking at my options, whether to take up the matter with the Press Ombudsman or lawyers to see if I have any recourse.”

Star editor Makhudu Sefara said his newspaper stood by its report and the reporter who wrote it.

“If Mr Mbalula is considering legal action, let him. We are convinced that we did everything according to the book,” Sefara said.

Political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni said if indeed such statements were made, they were of a serious nature — a government minister insulting the president who appointed him into his position.

“The question will be how the two political leaders operate in government and political space with ease.”

Fikeni said there will be pressure from within the ANC that the president and party take action against Mbalula if it was found he had made the utterances. “It would be difficult to imagine what prompted a senior leader to invoke such statements and a level of engagement which does not illuminate anything but demean the leader of the ANC,” he added.

KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala suggested that Mbalula resign as a national executive committee member and as a sports minister since he made it clear that he “has no time for President Zuma”.

He added that the national working committee should take Mbalula to task on his reported comments.

• mayibongwe.maqhina@witness.co.za

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