Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings that former Sports minister Fikile Mbalula had violated the Executive Members Ethics Code have been dismissed as being “unsubstantiated and prejudicial” by the latter.
As he, on Friday, weighed in on Mkhwebane’s findings, Mbalula (who was sports minister from 2010 to 2017) said he was motivated by the “inaccurate reports in the media, and the public nature of the Public Protector’s report”.
“I have taken note of the findings by the Honourable Advocate Mkhwebane relating to my conduct as former Minister of Sports and Recreation. Having done so, it behoves me to point out that I did not breach any provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the Executive Members Ethics Code Act, and the Executive Ethics Code.
“The conclusions of the Public Protector to the contrary are, with respect, unsubstantiated and prejudicial. They are strongly denied,” said Mbalula.
Earlier this week, City Press reported that Mkhwebane had investigated allegations of a violation of the executive ethics code, conflict of interest as well as improper and/or irregular conduct against Mbalula with regards to what appeared to be inappropriate funding or sponsorship for a family trip to Dubai during the period December 28, 2016 to January 3, 2017.
The investigation into the former minister’s family trip came after a complaint was laid against him by a DA member of parliament, Tshepo Mhlongo, and the Afriforum Head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Monique Taute, last year.
According to Mkhwebane, it was alleged that Mbalula took a trip with his family (for vacation) which was partly sponsored by a private company, Sedgars Sports, which at the time was doing business with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
Having acknowledged the vacation to Dubai, Mbalula has been adamant that the money he received was in fact a loan from director of Sedgars, Yusuf Dockrat, his “friend of 20 years”.
He said he accepted the loan “in order to bridge the cost of a family vacation trip” and added that he has since “repaid the loan, with interest as agreed”.
“The short term loan is confirmed by myself and the lender, Yusuf Dockrat,” said Mbalula.
The ANC’s head of elections, however, vehemently denied any wrong doing.
Similarly, Western Cape premier Hellen Zille, who was also found to have violating the executive members’ ethics code after she helped her son (a maths teacher in the province) to loan tablets from the department to be used in extra maths lessons for matric pupils, has also challenged Mkhwebane’s findings.
“The Public Protector got it all wrong,” said Zille.
“Apart from the legal errors in the report, part of the remedial action proposed is also unlawful. This is another reason why I will take the report on a full review,” she said.
Surprisingly Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga openly supported Zille and not party member Mbalula.
She said she was disappointed and “surprised” by Mkhwebane’s findings against Zille, arguing how it was possible that the public protector could conclude that this was “a conflict of interest when this was in the public interest”.
Mbalula indicated that he will be seeking legal counsel, and was currently consulting his lawyers as he is considering taking Mkhwebane’s decision on review.