Fikile's albatross: People always asked if I was a 'Gupta minister'

2019-03-22 19:59
Fikile Mbalula at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. (Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

Fikile Mbalula at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. (Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

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WATCH: Fikile Mbalula at state capture inquiry

2019-03-22 09:45

Former Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula is appearing before the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture.WATCH

Former minister Fikile Mbalula says he "suffered" and was "attacked" for taking a stand and informing the ANC top brass that Ajay Gupta allegedly knew about his Cabinet appointment before he was offered the job.

Mbalula testified before inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Friday. 

Mbalula told Zondo that Gupta allegedly "congratulated" him for his appointment as minister of sports and recreation, a position then president Jacob Zuma had not yet offered him. 

SCROLL: Mbalula denies involvement with Guptas at state capture

"I have had a personal encounter with the Guptas in relation to the appointment of ministers," Mbalula testified on Friday.

"I received a call from Mr Ajay Gupta [in which] he actually congratulated me before I was even appointed as a minister. I didn't know that I was going to be [a] minister", he said. 

Mbalula told Zondo that he raised his concerns at an national executive committee (NEC) meeting in August 2011. He allegedly received the phone call in 2010.

Tense discussion

When asked what his reaction was when he received the call from Gupta, Mbalula said he froze.

Former minister Trevor Manuel previously testified that during a meeting Mbalula had an emotional reaction about an interaction he had with one of the Gupta brothers. The Guptas are at the centre of state capture allegations.

Manuel revealed that at that meeting, members had a tense discussion about the influence of the Guptas.

Mbalula spoke of how emotional he was at the NEC meeting when he revealed this to the party's senior leadership, which included the top six. 

"They were bowing, looking down and you could hear a drop of rain.

No backers at meeting

"When I raised the issue in the meeting, it became quiet. People were shrinking in their chairs and others came after to give me a pat on the back and said 'hey you are brave, man'," he testified, describing the mood during that NEC meeting.

One NEC member stood up and rubbished what he had told them saying: "This is not a beer hall." 

Mbalula refused to name the NEC member. Zuma did not react to his concerns, he said.

"I didn't have seconders in that meeting. Minister (Trevor) Manuel was there but nobody said, 'but what Mbalula is raising and to the point that he is emotional is a serious matter for us and how do we react to it'.

"I suffered a lot after that because I was attacked, chased left and right… because I took a stand that this was not on. Whatever the consequences, I was able to raise it in my party."

Zondo said in his affidavit, Gupta denied telling Mbalula that he was going to be minister of sports and that he only spoke to Mbalula on the basis of what he read in the papers.

Inconsistencies in evidence

But Mbalula said he stood by his version.

He was also asked why he wasn't openly supported for what appeared to have been a concern for several people.

He said the majority of people were Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers and he believed it would have been difficult for some of them to just stand up.

At the request of evidence leader advocate Leah Gcabashe, Mbalula also addressed inconsistencies in his evidence to the Public Protector and the evidence which was now before the commission.

Mbalula told the Public Protector that he was not told by Ajay Gupta about his appointment as sports minister. He said he was told by the president.

However, in his evidence before Zondo on Friday, Mbalula said he first heard about it from Gupta. 

Perceptions around appointment 'an albatross'

"I was saying I was not appointed or contacted by the Guptas, I was appointed and contacted by the president, which is a fact," he said.

He said his evidence before the commission relates to the NEC meeting of August 2011 and arises from the evidence Manuel and former South African National Defence Force chief General Siphiwe Nyanda had given.

He said in terms of what he told the Public Protector he explained appointments and processes and explained the meeting he had with Gupta.

Mbalula reiterated that Gupta did not offer him the post, he only congratulated him.  

The former minister of sports and recreation also told Zondo that "everywhere" he went people would ask if he was a "Gupta minister". 

"This has been an albatross on me," he said.

Read more on:    fikile mabula  |  gupta family  |  state capture inquiry

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