Mbalula enters Cabinet with adverse Public Protector finding over his head

2019-05-30 13:41
Fikile Mbalula (Simphiwe Nkwali, Gallo Images)

Fikile Mbalula (Simphiwe Nkwali, Gallo Images)

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While Pravin Gordhan's retention as a minister, following recent Public Protector findings against him, has been under the spotlight, newly appointed Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula also has a Public Protector finding hanging over his head.

In Gordhan's case, Public Protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, found that he had flouted the law, procedures and the Constitution in approving former SARS boss Ivan Pillay's application for early retirement. Gordhan has since filed a review application, asking the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to set aside the report.

READ: 'New Dawn' Cabinet doesn't impress opposition - this is what they had to say

In Mbalula's case, Mkhwebane found in 2018 that a trip he had taken to Dubai in 2016, when he was Minister of Sports and Recreation, was paid for by a company that conducted business with sport governing body Sascoc, leading to a conflict of interest.

While Mbalula initially denied the allegations, Mkhwebane found that Sedgars paid for almost half of the R680 000 trip.

According to Mkhwebane's investigations, Sedgars paid R300 000 for the trip through a bank account of an inactive company known only as Reimon Uniforms. 

READ: Mbalula found wanting over Dubai trip, but he escapes sanction

The Public Protector said that Mbalula, who was an MP and minister during this period, did not disclose the sponsorship of this family trip as was required by law and in doing so, he violated the executive ethics code.

Mkhwebane further said that there was a clear conflict of interest when Mbalula asked for funds from the director of Sedgars, who was at the time providing sports apparel to Team South Africa through Sascoc.

"There was an undisclosed and unmanaged conflict of interest between Mr Mbalula's responsibility to act in the best interests of his department and government, and his private interest which had to be looked after by the Dockrats (Yusuf Dockrat is a Sedgars Sport director).

"In this regard, Mr Mbalula is therefore found to have acted in violation of the Constitution and the executive ethics codes and his actions constituted improper and unethical conduct." 

No punishment

Mkhwebane did not take remedial action against Mbalula because he was no longer a member of the executive. 

However, she directed the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate whether the funds used to pay for Mbalula's trip were not the proceeds of money laundering.

Shortly after the report was released, Mbalula said that the Public Protector's claims were unsubstantiated and prejudicial.

"They are strongly denied," he said in a statement.

READ MORE: Mbalula says he will launch court challenge to Public Protector's finding on his Dubai holiday

In December 2018, Mbalula said he would challenge the Public Protector's report in court, adding that the money he received from Sedgars was a short-term loan from Dockrat, who had been a friend for 20 years.

In her report, Mkhwebane said there was no evidence of a loan, or loan agreement, between Dockrat and Mbalula.

On Thursday morning, Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told News24 that Mbalula has taken no court action since the release of the report.

The NPA was approached for comment and referred News24 to the Hawks for an update on the investigation. Once the Hawks' comment is received the story will be updated.

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Read more on:    public protector  |  fikile mbalula  |  politics
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