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Mbalula: I know who's peddling lies about Malema

Genevieve Quintal

Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula says he knows who is responsible for "peddling lies" about him and Julius Malema's London trip.

Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Paul Botes, M&G)

"I know where this story is coming from," Mbalula told reporters in Johannesburg on Friday.

"In time that story will be told ... but this is not the time. I will deal with it at an appropriate time."

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the government was paying for Malema's stay in a five-star London hotel through his association with Mbalula.

Mbalula denied the report.

People were trying to attack him and his integrity, he said.

"I took an oath [as minister] ... I'm not corrupt. Unlike Jackie Selebi, these hands are clean," he said. "I did not pay for Julius."

He challenged anyone who thought they had proof to ask the "very enthusiastic" public protector to investigate.

'No secret'
Mbalula said he was in London on an official visit as the minister of sport and to lead Team South Africa at the Olympics.

"It was no secret what we were doing in London. I did everything in London that I was supposed to do," he said.

"We don't need government money to fulfil our personal dreams. People want to rubbish our names."

Mbalula said he could not understand why he needed to answer questions about other people's visits to the British capital.

He said he was not responsible for Malema's political programme as he was no longer an ANC member.

"Please ask him if you want to know, I'm not his spokesperson."

Meeting
Mbalula did not deny that he saw Malema while he was in London.

"I meet Julius every day here in South Africa, why should London be an exception?"

Just because Malema was no longer an ANC member there was no reason to not have a personal relationship with him, Mbalula said.

"There are people who were expelled from the ANC in the past that I greet ... some come to my private functions," he said, referring to United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, who was expelled from the ruling party in 1996.

Mbalula said this was called freedom of association.

'The DA will not rest'
But the Democratic Alliance said it wanted Mbalula to tell Parliament how much his department spent on his trip to London.

"We are particularly interested in hearing whether the state footed the bill for Julius Malema's stay in the luxurious Corinthia Hotel in London," Democratic Alliance MP Winston Rabotapi said.

"The DA will not rest until we know how much of the people's money minister Mbalula has spent on this trip."

Rabotapi said Parliament was still awaiting answers to questions on how funding from the National Lottery and private sponsorships for the Olympics was used. It was also waiting to hear how many officials from the department were attending the Games.

He said Mbalula had a tendency to spend public money on parties and junkets.

"Last year, his department spent R45.9-million on the annual sports award ceremony, with R8-million coming from the National Lottery Board [despite being earmarked for Olympic athletes] and R12.1-million from the department of sports and recreation," said Rabotapi.

"Responses to DA questions on ministerial flights revealed last year that Minister Mbalula and his deputy have spent a combined total of over R2.6-million on 345 domestic and international flights since April 1 2010."

Ekhaya Hospitality Centre
Rabotapi said the sport department had a R36.9-million budget for travel and subsistence.

The DA was also interested in the costs relating to the Ekhaya Hospitality Centre, an intergovernmental initiative spearheaded by the department.

"The department is reportedly refusing to disclose information on the costs involved in the running of the centre and the various entertainment acts that will be staged there over the next six weeks," said Rabotapi.

He said parliamentary questions should help determine how funding allocated to athletes compared to that spent by government officials at the Olympics.

"Minister Mbalula must prove to us that our athletes' performance is his top priority," added Rabotapi. – Sapa

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