Civil society organisation AfriForum has laid criminal charges against Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. The charges are motivated by what the organisation has described as the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) failure to follow through on recommendations made by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane last year when she found the minister to have violated the terms and conditions of Parliament’s executive ethics code.
Mkhwebane announce in December that her office had found Mbalula, who was sports minister between 2010 and 2017, guilty after a complaint was laid against him by DA MP Tshepo Mhlongo and the AfriForum anti-corruption unit head, Monique Taute, in relation to a holiday trip that he and his family took to Dubai.
She recommended that the NPA also investigate whether the transfer of the funds to Mbalula amounted to money laundering.
Speaking to City Press on Tuesday, Taute said the NPA’s failure to prosecute Mbalula on the Public Protector’s recommendation compelled AfriForum to lay charges at the Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria.
“Since the Public Protector’s recommendation there has been no investigation by the Hawks and having tried on numerous times, we have not received any feedback from the NPA, hence we have resorted to laying criminal charges with the intention of pursuing private litigation should the NPA still not prosecute,” said Monique.
She added that the minister, like any other citizen, should be subjected to the country’s justice system and has to prove his innocence before the courts.
“No politician can be regarded as above the law, which is why AfriForum’s anti-corruption unit is of the opinion that it is in the public interest as well as in the interests of justice that the NPA prosecutes him without fear, favour or prejudice,” she said.
When Mbalula was sports minister in 2016 he went on a family holiday in Dubai courtesy of a private company named Sedgars Sports, which at the time was conducting business with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
Some of the allegations against Mbalula were that half of his trip – which cost about R680 000 – was paid for by Sedgars Sports through an inactive company known as Reimon Uniforms.
Mkhwebane found that as a member of Parliament and a member of the Cabinet at the time, it was alleged that Mbalula did not disclose the sponsorship of the trip in the register of member’s interests as is required in law and therefore violated the executive members’ ethics code.
Both parties – Mbalula and Sedgars – denied any wrongdoing, with the minister claiming that the money was merely “a loan”.
In a statement AfriForum said: “The Public Protector’s suggested remedial action was to tell the National Prosecuting Authority that they must seek prosecution against Fikile Mbalula. But that was eight months ago, and nothing has come to fruition.”
AfriForum’s prosecution unit has pursued other high-profile individuals in the past – former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe and former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma are some of the individuals who have faced off with AfriForum’s prosecution unit.
However, the organisation has been unsuccessful in both cases.
Having been reached for comments, both Mbalula and the NPA where not readily available for comment at the time of publication.