Sport ministry denies hotel room trashing

Allegations that sport ministry staff trashed a luxury hotel suite booked in the name of President Jacob Zuma at an awards ceremony at Sun City last week are “entirely false”, a spokesperson for Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Sunday.

“The story is a lie,” Paena Galane said.

“No one in the ministry paid for that room.”

The allegations, published in the New Age newspaper last week, raised the ire of the Democratic Alliance (DA) which demanded that Mbalula explain why a luxury hotel suite booked in Zuma’s name was trashed.

“It has emerged that a R60 000-a-night luxury suite at Sun City’s five-star Palace hotel was trashed by sports ministry staff after the 2011 Sports Star Awards held last Sunday,” DA MP Donald Lee said.

“The suite was apparently booked for President Jacob Zuma, although he was not even on the guest list.”

Sue Klerck, corporate public relations executive for Sun International said ‘I can confirm that there was no reservation or room held for President Zuma for this event, nor was there any damage reported in any room at The Palace during the weekend of the South African Sports Awards.”

Mbalula, whose office organised the event, needs to explain why R60 000 was spent on a suite for the use of ministry staff.

How much damage was caused to the suite and whether any ministry officials have been disciplined for their behaviour, Lee said.

“Before the event, Mbalula openly told the media that the awards would not come cheap because they needed to be spectacular.

“His comments and the behaviour of his officials are at odds with his new white paper which speaks of maximising access of poor and underdeveloped communities to sporting opportunities,” Lee said.

Mbalula had said the awards were not a “mickey mouse” business and would not come cheap.

He was at the forefront of the re-launch of the South African Sports Awards aimed at celebrating sporting excellence after the event took a two-year break.

When asked how much would be spent towards the event which Mbalula has termed a “razzmatazz”, he replied, “It will be more than R500 000 … it is a lot of money but we have sponsors who’ve graciously contributed.”

Reports estimated the event to be worth millions.

When Mbalula assumed his post last December, he spoke about the glitz and glamour that he would bring to the department. This was one of them.

Mbalula emphasised the importance of honouring those involved in sport when they did well, as much as people were vocal when the same people get drunk and falter.

The event was sponsored by MTN, Old Mutual, SAA and Barloworld, among others.

Mbalula said the awards were above all about the role played by sports to bring about unity and social cohesion. — Sapa

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