Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found that Fikile Mbalula lied when he said he entered into a loan agreement with sporting goods company Sedgars Sport, to cover costs for the 2016 Dubai Christmas trip he took with his family.
“There is no evidence in my possession that Mr Mbalula entered into a loan agreement with Sedgars,” Mkhwebane said.
The public protector was presenting her final quarterly reports at a media briefing on Wednesday where she released reports on several investigations before getting to Mbalula’s impropriety.
In the report, Mkhwebane made the finding that Mbalula could not afford the trip to the United Arab Emirates city which is why he sought funding from the director of Sedgars Sport, Yusuf Dockrat. The snag is that Mbalula was the minister of sports at this time, which presents a conflict of interest.
Sedgars Sport is a sponsor of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) where it provides clothing to Olympic athletes and officials. Sascoc functions under the department of sport.
Mkhwebane found Mbalula to have violated the executive code of ethics for Cabinet and executives.
“Mr Mbalula acted in a way that is inconsistent with the conduct of a minister and the standard required by the Constitution,” Mkhwebane said.
Mbalula and his family went on the trip without knowing how much it would cost, an irresponsible act according to the public protector.
When the Mbalula family returned from the trip, the minister found that he could not cover the R684 620.39 cost of the trip.
He then claims to have arranged to receive a loan from Dockrat. Several payments were then made with two going to travel agency Munlin Travel that dealt with the trip. This payment was made through an inactive company called Reimon Uniforms which is owned by Dockrat’s cousin.
Mkhwebane says she does not accept Mbalula’s loan agreement claim because “had the transactions not been reported in the media, Mr Mbalula would not have repaid the funds. Mr Mbalula sought the fund’s ex post facto and under extreme desperation,” Mkhwebane said.
Mkhwebane also said Mbalula claimed at some point that he did not know that Dockrat was a director at Sedgars. But the public protector says she does not accept this because Mbalula and Dockrat have known each other for more than two decades.
Mkhwebane said she has sent the report to President Cyril Ramaphosa who must take note of it and share it with other Cabinet members to “prevent this from happening”. The public protector also recommended that Cabinet members and members of the executive be trained on conflict of interest and maladministration.
Mkhwebane though, will not be instituting any remedial action against Mbalula since he is no longer a member of the Cabinet.
Mkhwebane also released a report on treasury director-general (DG) Dondo Mogajane who she found gave inaccurate information regarding his criminal record when applying for his current position. Mogajane applied for the DG job when Malusi Gigaba was still finance minister in 2017.
The public protector found that Mogajane was found guilty of contravening the Road Traffic Act in 2015 but that he did not disclose this.
Mkhwebane also found that Gigaba appointed Mogajane without due diligence because he did not conduct a proper vetting process, therefore “condoning the impropriety”.
Mkhwebane has recommended that Ramaphosa take disciplinary action against Mogajane within 60 days.
The public protector also found that Western Cape premier Helen Zille also violated the executive members’ ethics code by opening herself up to the risk of conflict of interest when she offered to assist a programme her son was a part of in 2014.
The programme was aimed at providing math tutoring to school children in townships.
A complaint was filed against Zille by a member of the province’s legislature who alleged that Zille allowed her son, Paul Maree, to use tablets bought by the Western Cape’s education department for the programme.
Mkhwebane said that although the project benefited many pupils, Zille “exposed herself to a risk of a conflict of interest between her official responsibilities and her private interests”.
Zille has claimed that she followed due process in getting the tablets to the programme and that she did not use any undue influence. She has also refuted claims that the tablets bought by the department were solely for her son’s programme and says Maree borrowed the tablets are returned them in “mint condition”.
In a press statement, Zille said she will take the findings on review.
“The public protector has once again, reflected her severely limited understanding of the constitution and the law, and I will, yet again, be taking her finding against me on review to the high court.”
Read Zille’s statement here:
Press Statement on Public P… by on Scribd