Riddle around Mbalula's Las Vegas trip deepens

2015-05-16 10:14
Fikile Mbalula. (GCIS)

Fikile Mbalula. (GCIS)

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Johannesburg - Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has apparently been caught in a lie about his return date from Las Vegas where he attended the boxing match between Floyd "Money" Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio, Netwerk24 reported on Saturday.

According to an investigation by Beeld newspaper, the sports minister lied on social networking site Twitter about his return date.

According to the department of home affairs entry control, Mbalula was back on South African soil on May 6 at 07:12 - and not on May 4, as he said on Twitter.

This comes after he complained about journalists asking who paid for his trip.

He attended the epic boxing match in Las Vegas in the United States on Saturday evening, May 2 (Sunday morning in South African time).

Mbalula's spokesperson Esethu Hasane told Beeld the following day it was not an official visit. He added that it was not necessary for Mbalula to apply for leave because he departed on the Friday - a public holiday - and returned early Monday morning.

Time difference

Mbalula tweeted on May 4: Some media are asking when do I land from Vegas am already here. @eNCAnewsam not your ringside reporter from #FloydVSPacquiao

But Beeld established through two independent, reliable sources that Mbalula departed on April 30 and only returned on Wednesday May 6. He flew with Emirates Airlines via Dubai.

If the time difference was taken into account, he could have tweeted in the early hours of May 5.

Hasane declined to comment about the apparent contradiction.

It is not known if Mbalula was accompanied by bodyguards or other people, and who paid for them.

Besides his recent Las Vegas visit, Mbalula has this year already undertaken four overseas trips.

This included an official visit to Zurich, Switzerland, and another visit to New York on invitation from NBA Africa. But it is not clear if the other two visits were official or private and Hasane would not comment on questions about this.

He said the last time he replied to queries from Media24, his comments were twisted.

He said he chose not to respond to questions.

Mbalula last week said in reply to a parliamentary question from the Freedom Front Plus that no state money was used for the trip. But still refused to say if a sponsor paid for it.

Beeld earlier reported that arms dealer Ivor Ichikowitz sponsored part of a trip by Mayweather to South Africa in 2014, on a request from Mbalula.

Mbalula's overseas trips this year:

 21 to 31 January: Paris, France. Reason for trip unknown.

13 to 18 February: New York on invitation from NBA Africa to attend the annual NBA All-Star weekend. According to his office, no state money was used for this trip. He partied with rapper P Diddy, Mayweather and Metro FM presenter Tbo Touch.

28 February to 3 March: London, England. Reason for trip unknown.

8 to 10 April: An official visit to meet with soccer body Fifa about an investigation into Bafana Bafana's alleged involvement in match fixing.

Read more on:    floyd mayweather  |  fikile mbalula

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