Defiant Mbalula tells station to prove Dubai trip perk
This as opposition parties piled on the pressure, urging Mbalula to come clean and threatening to ask Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to probe the trip.
Eyewitness News (EWN) reported that sports goods supplier Sedgars Sports, a service provider to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), paid for at least half the R680 000 holiday.
It said the payment for the trip, which took place between December 28 last year and January 3 this year, appeared to be a conflict of interest as Mbalula was the minister of sport at the time of the trip.
It was reported that Sedgars Sports had denied making the alleged payments.
Speaking to Independent Media, Mbalula dismissed the report and said the journalist from EWN should rather produce the facts of the alleged conflict of interest and not expect him to do so.
“It’s a smear campaign,” he said. “He says the company paid for me and that there might be a conflict of interest. If he has evidence, he must produce it,” Mbalula said, adding that he reserved his rights.
Parliament’s code of conduct requires MPs to declare gifts and hospitality in excess of R1500 from a source other than a family member.
It also requires parliamentarians to disclose foreign travel other than personal visits paid by the member, business visits unrelated to the member’s role as a public representative and official, and formal visits paid for by an organ of state or the member’s party.
Yesterday, Parliament could not say if Mbalula had disclosed the said trip.
The updated register of members’ interests has yet to be published after the last one, covering the period ending in September last year, was published in February.
MPs were given until last month to make disclosures from the period between October last year and September.
This was confirmed by Omie Singh, the chairperson of the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests.
“We should now be able to do the reconciliation and the number of people that have not submitted,” Singh said before referring Independent Media to the registrar of members’ interests, advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara.
Spokesperson in Parliament Moloto Mothapo said the report was being compiled.
“It means the disclosures are not completed. It will be premature to comment,” he said.
But the EFF said it had noted the reports that Mbalula was a beneficiary of a holiday to Dubai funded by Sedgars Sports.
Spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Mbalula had not publicly declared the benefit as required by the rules of the National Assembly and the Ministerial Handbook.
“The EFF has written to the minister to publicly ask him if he received funding for a holiday. The EFF also asked him why he hadn’t declared the benefit in both Parliament and the cabinet,” said Ndlozi.
He also said the benefit bordered on violation of the law.
“As a result, we will expect the SAPS, Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority to squeeze such criminality out of our public offices.”
The DA said there was a clear conflict of interest and Mbalula had breached the executive members’ ethics code.
“Mbalula’s relationship with Sedgars Sports was improper and he compromised his integrity and impartiality by allegedly allowing the company to pay for the trip.
“He must, therefore, account for his failure to abide by the rules set out for all public representatives,” said Tsepo Mhlongo of the DA.
Mhlongo said they would ask Mkhwebane and the ethics committee to investigate the matter.
But, Mbalula was adamant that the onus was on EWN to prove the allegations that he did not declare his interests and gifts to Parliament after they “investigated and wrote a story that is not conclusive”.
He said: “You can’t write an inconclusive story. Why should I get the facts for you?”
Department of Sport and Recreation head of communications Mickey Modisane would only say “no comment”.
Minister Thulas Nxesi’s spokesperson, Sabelo Mali, declined to comment on “something we don’t know”.
Sascoc could not be reached for comment but spokesperson Jessica Choga was quoted by the Huffington Post as saying they had nothing to do with the Dubai trip.