Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula has again dismissed allegations that he squandered taxpayers’ money on a pleasure junket to the London Olympic Games - but on Wednesday he skirted around questions on how much his department had spent on the trip.
“I did not go to London for a joyride. I do not book for myself to go on trips. I went to London to support our team, which is something I will do again in the next couple of weeks to support our Paralympic team,” he told a joint meeting of the Cape Town Club and the Cape Town Press Club.
Mbalula said he would not have gone to London under normal circumstances. “Under normal circumstances, I would have gone shopping but I went there because of my portfolio. There was the biggest event taking place - the London Olympics - and that is what took me there.”
Mbalula came under fire during the Olympics following reports that the government was paying for expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s trip to the games - an allegation Mbalula has strongly denied, although he did not deny spending time with Malema in London.
The DA has accused the Sport Department of sending too many officials to the games and has called on the minister to tell Parliament how much his department spent.
Mbalula also evaded questions on his reported intention to bring American superstar Beyoncé to SA for the second annual SA Sports Awards, but said he would take heed of the concerns raised about the costs of such a visit.
In June, he raised eyebrows when he told Joburg radio station Kaya FM that he wanted Beyoncé to perform as the headline act in the awards in November.
Mbalula spared no cost on stars, including Brandy Norwood, Vivica A Fox and Regina King, at last year’s awards. Beyoncé reportedly charged close to R17 million for an hour-long performance for Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in 2010.
“I can’t speak about the sports awards now, about who is coming, as I have not received the report from the preparatory committee.
“It was our intention (to have Beyoncé) in terms of the preparations, but it is not key,” Mbalula added.