Afriforum said it has laid criminal charges against Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula over his 2017 family trip to Dubai. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Lobby group Afriforum on Tuesday said it has laid criminal charges against Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula over his 2017 family trip to Dubai, allegedly paid for by a government supplier of sport products.

"AfriForum requested the Public Protector [Busisiwe Mkhwebane] in 2017 to investigate the trip. She found that Mbalula had violated the Constitution and other legislation in this regard. She further ordered the National Prosecuting Authority to launch an investigation into whether the funds used to pay for the trip had been proceeds from money laundering or not. However, the NPA has yet to take steps against Mbalula," said Monique Taute, head of AfriForum’s anti-corruption unit.  

Mkhwebane found that Sedgars Sport, a supplier of formal wear apparel for various sporting codes falling under the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), helped Mbalula when he failed to settle the bill for the lavish holiday.  

The sports body falls under the sports ministry.

Mbalula was Sports’ minister from November 2010 to March 2017 and minister of police until February 2018. He was appointed transport minister after the May 8 general elections this year.

The public protector investigated the complaint that was lodged by Democratic Alliance member of Parliament (MP) Tshepo Mhlongo and Taute on behalf of Afriforum. She found that between December 2016 and January 2017, Mbalula flew to Dubai first-class with his family and stayed at the Palm Beach Hotel, Atlantis on the tab of Sedgars Sport. 

Mkhwebane said Mbalula, as an MP, did not disclose the sponsorship of this family trip in the Register of Members Interests as is required in law. Although Mbalula claimed to have paid for the trip, Mkhwebane found that he did not pay nor knew how much the trip would cost. The travel agency had repeatedly sent demands to the minister to settle the bill, without success. The agency eventually took payment from Sedgars Sport after sourcing the services of a debt collector.

Taute said her organisation was compelled to lay charges after the NPA failed to act when requested to do so.

"The Minister, by all indications, went on a vacation paid for by ‘dirty money’ and he unfairly benefited from his relationship with Sedgars; he must therefore be held accountable. No politician can be seen as above the law and therefore AfriForum’s anti-corruption unit feels that it is in public interest and the interest of justice that the NPA prosecute him without fear, favour or prejudice."

The charges of money laundering and corruption were laid at Brooklyn police station on Tuesday.

African News Agency (ANA)