Mbalula silent on Olympic trip

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AP

Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula. Photo: AP

The Department of Sports and Recreation has failed to divulge the total cost of flying a delegation, including Minister Fikile Mbalula, to the Olympics.

Ministerial spokesman Paena Galane said on Monday the cost of the trip had been addressed at a media briefing last Friday. He referred the Cape Argus to the statement the ministry issued last week.

But the statement did not contain the cost of the delegation’s travel and accommodation expenses. Instead, it explained Mbalula’s trip to London: “In the absence of our president and deputy president during the Olympics opening ceremony, the minister of sport and recreation had to play a prominent role at the ceremony, and he duly represented South Africa.”

The number of delegates from the department remains unknown.

This comes after reports that expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema stayed in the same hotel as Mbalula, pictured, and his delegation.

The team announced by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) included 125 athletes, 46 officials, 12 medical staff and eight team management members.

The statement described visits by the minister and his delegation in support of the SA Olympic team, including officiating at the flag-raising ceremony at the Olympic Village.

“As expected from any responsible government, we inspected the facilities and food, and also spoke to athletes, who declared that they are comfortable with the set-up there.

“We were also satisfied with what we saw and witnessed,” the department said.

Asked last week whether he had picked up Malema’s tab, Mbalula dismissed such claims as having “no content or basis”.

“They are malicious, and just rumour-mongering.

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

“I took an oath (as minister), I’m not corrupt. Unlike, Jackie Selebi these hands are clean. I did not pay for Julius.”

He did not deny that he had seen Malema while he was in London.

Meanwhile, the DA spokesman on sports and recreation, Winston Rabotapi, said his party would “compel” Mbalula to tell Parliament how much had been spent “on what appears to be another lavish junket for sports officials”.

“We are particularly interested in hearing whether the state footed the bill for Julius Malema’s stay in the luxurious Corinthia Hotel in London during the first week of the Olympic Games,” Rabotapi said.

“Minister Mbalula has a penchant for spending public money on parties and junkets. Last year, his department spent R45.9 million on the annual sports award ceremony, with R8m coming from the National Lotteries Board (despite being earmarked for Olympic athletes) and R12.1m from the Department of Sports and Recreation.

“Our Olympic athletes are once again showing how sport can unite and reconcile South Africans in the quest for national pride. Minister Mbalula must prove to us that our athletes’ performance is his top priority,” said Rabotapi.

Sascoc is scheduled to appear before Parliament’s committee on sports and recreation Tuesday and report back on the Olympics.

The department had not responded to requests for further information on expenditure and details of the number of delegates from the department by the time of going to print.

Political Bureau


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