Johannesburg – Allegations of questionable dealings with private companies and businessmen are heaping up against Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Eyewitness News revealed on Monday that a manufacturer of sports clothing paid at least R300 000 towards a holiday Mbalula and his family had recently enjoyed in Dubai.
The company, Sedgars Sport, is a supplier of sports clothing to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), according to the report.
Mbalula was still minister of sport when his family allegedly holidayed in Dubai between late December 2016 and January this year, which means the trip could have constituted a serious conflict of interest.
The revelation comes on the back of earlier indications that Mbalula enjoyed dubious perks from the private sector that he has neither declared as an elected official nor properly explained to the public.
In April this year, News24 revealed that a murdered tender mogul had once allegedly channelled R1m to Mbalula through Thabo “Tbo Touch” Molefe, a well-known radio personality and a friend of Mbalula.
According to claims made in court papers filed in the High Court in Bloemfontein, Wandile Bozwana, a businessman who died after being shot in Pretoria in 2015, channelled R1m to Mbalula through Molefe some time before his death.
News24 also established that the alleged payment had been made shortly before Mbalula and Molefe embarked on a trip to Las Vegas in 2015, where the duo attended the fight between boxing superstars Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Mbalula and Bozwana had been friends, and the then sports minister apparently even alluded to money he had received from the slain businessman.
“He was a generous man… He was one person I would abuse financially. And sometimes for political reasons,” Mbalula reportedly said in a speech at Bozwana’s funeral.
But earlier this year, after News24 had obtained the court papers detailing the R1m payment, Mbalula denied that he had ever received money from Bozwana.
Esethu Hasane, Mbalula’s spokesperson, accused News24 of “trying to draw a narrative that the minister was the beneficiary of the late Mr Bozwana’s businesses, and that a loan was given to them [Mbalula and Molefe] for some trip to Las Vegas”.
However, in our queries to Mbalula, News24 never suggested that the alleged payment was a “loan” of some sorts.
Hasane also accused Media24 of driving an “unrelenting [and] unrepentant campaign to vilify the minister”, without addressing our queries as to why someone would allege in court papers that Bozwana had made payments that benefited Mbalula.
Viva, Las Vegas!
Questions around how Mbalula had paid for his trip to Las Vegas were first raised during a twitter spat between the erstwhile sports minister and then Beeld editor Adriaan Basson at the time of the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight in May 2015.
After Mbalula had returned to South Africa, he first denied in Parliament that his department had footed the bill for his trip, whilst refusing to divulge details on who exactly paid for the flights and related costs.
“Any declaration, if necessary, will be done in accordance with Parliament’s rules,” Mbalula had said when he was first grilled over the matter in Parliament.
His comment seemingly suggested that a third party sponsor may have footed the bill, which would have necessitated a full disclosure in Parliament’s register of members’ interests.
But in a follow-up session in the National Assembly, Mbalula later claimed that he had used his “own money” for his journey to Las Vegas.
Guns and Money (Mayweather)
There are indications that Mbalula had leaned on individuals from the private sector for financial assistance even before the May 2015 fight.
In January 2014, more than a year before the epic showdown at the MGM Grand Arena, “Money” Mayweather had travelled to South Africa, where he was hosted by Mbalula and the department of sport.
The American boxer’s trip was supposedly organised in an effort to rejuvenate South Africa’s struggling boxing scene, though critics were left wondering whether the stunt in any way benefitted the sport in the country.
Amidst speculation and questions over how the costs for Mayweather’s trip was covered, Beeld and Netwerk24 revealed that the wealthy Ichikowitz family paid for at least some of the expenses related to the international boxing star’s stay in South Africa.
The brothers Ivor and Eric Ichikowitz run the Paramount Group, an arms manufacturer that has been embroiled in allegations of improper dealings with the government of former Malawian president Joyce Banda.
Eric Ichikowitz initially claimed that the department of sport approached the family to help pay for the Mayweather trip.
But he later changed his tune and maintained that it happened the other way around. Upon hearing about the star’s trip to the country, the Ichikowitz family offered their assistance to Mbalula’s department, according to Ichikowitz.
Mbalula publicly claims that he wishes to “squeeze” the life out of crime in South Africa.
But through his private financial dealings with controversial businessmen, the blustering police minister himself may have tested the boundary seperating legal and unlawful conduct far too many times for someone in his position.