Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found both Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and former sports minister Fikile Mbalula guilty of violating the executive members’ ethics code.
Mbalula, who was sports minister between 2010 and 2017, was found guilty after a complaint was laid against him by DA MP Tshepo Mhlongo and the Afriforum Head of Anti-Corruption Unit, Monique Taute, in relation to a holiday trip that he and his family took to Dubai.
“I investigated allegations of a violation of the executive ethics code, conflict of interest as well as improper and/or irregular conduct with regard to what appeared to be an inappropriate funding or sponsorship for a family holiday trip to Dubai during the period December 28 2016 to January 3 2017,” Mkhwebane said during a media briefing on Wednesday.
Following the complaints by Taute and Mhlongo which were consolidated into one, an additional complaint on the minister’s trip was laid by former national spokesperson of the Congress of the People Youth Movement, Elias Muller, in October last year.
Mkhwebane said: “It was alleged that Mr Mbalula in his capacity as the minister of sport and recreation undertook a trip with his family for a vacation and that trip was sponsored by 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.
According to Mkhwebane, 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.
“Upon analysis of the complaints, I decided to investigate whether there were any irregularities in the funding of Mr Mbalula’s trip to Dubai,” she said.
“Also under investigation was whether Sedgars Sports had indeed funded Mr Mbalula’s trip to Dubai during the time period aforementioned.”
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Similarly Zille was also found to have contravened the ethics code.
According to Mkhwebane, the Western Cape premier allegedly “actively supported a process which resulted in the procurement of computer tablets for use in certain schools in the Western Cape province which was initiated by Papervideo, an initiative co-founded by her son Paul Maree”.
In other words, Zille helped her son – who is a maths teacher in the province – to loan tablets from the department to be used in extra maths lessons for matric pupils.
In doing so Mkhwebane said Zille violated clause 2.3(f) of the code of ethics as she exposed herself to a situation involving the risk of a conflict between her official responsibilities and her private interests.
The Public Protector, however, said that even through Maree did not initially benefit financially from the project and that this was a project which immensely benefited the less fortunate communities, it did not take away from the fact that Zille had opened herself up to the possibility of a conflict of interest.
She also added that Maree had since registered the business and may have benefited as a result thereafter.
As a remedial recommendation, Mkhwebane ruled that President Cyril Ramaphosa must within 14 days after receiving her report submit a copy of the report and his comments on her findings to the National Council of Provinces.
“The chairperson of the National Council of Provinces must within 30 days of this report ensure that this report is processed in accordance with the applicable rules of the National Council of Provinces,” said Mkhwebane.
In response to Mkhwebane’s ruling, Zille said she would review the matter in court.