File picture: Bheki Radebe.

DURBAN - Public Protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has asked the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to investigate whether the money used by a private company to fund a holiday for the former minister of sport and recreation, Fikile Mbalula, was in fact “proceeds of money laundering”.

The office also instructed the Financial Intelligence Centre to probe the source of the money used to pay for Mbalula’s holiday.

Mbalula is currently out of government but is the African National Congress election organiser.

In a report released on Wednesday by Mkhwebane, it was was found that Mbalula failed to tell parliament that a “private holiday” in December 2016 to Dubai was in fact funded by a government supplier. 

The holiday cost in excess of R680 000.

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 and recreation ministry.

Mbalula was sports’ minister from November 2010 to March 2017 and minister of police until February 2018.

The public protector 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.

The complaint was lodged with her office by DA MP Tshepo Mhlongo and lobby group AfriForum’s head of its anti-corruption unit Monique Taute.

“While Mr Mbalula was a member of parliament and a member of the Cabinet, he did not disclose the sponsorship of this family trip in the Register of Members Interests as is required in law,” said Mkhwebane.

She also found that Mbalula, while claiming to have paid for the trip, “did [not] pay nor know how much the trip would cost” and that the travel agency responsible for organising the trip, despite “repeated demands…for the minister to settle the costs”, eventually took payment from Sedgars Sport – after sourcing the services of a debt collector.

Mbalula claimed, but could not provide any details or documents proving such, that he in fact took a loan from Sedgars Sport director Yusuf Dockrat to fund the holiday.

“There is…no evidence in my possession that proves Mr Mbalula requested or obtained the loan prior to boarding a flight to Dubai. What is peculiar about this loan agreement is that it was entered into after the fact and when Mr Mbalula could not pay for the trip when demands were made by the travel agent for payment.”

She said she did consider Mbalula’s claim that he expected proceeds from a property sale to fund the holiday, but that she found it “odd” that he would sell a property to “fund an expensive holiday”.

“I find this reasoning quite concerning. Mr. Mbalula…undertook a trip to Dubai whilst he was not financially prepared for it, thus exposing himself to a pressure of finding financial resources to settle the bill of R684 620.39,” said Mkhwebane.

However she did not sanction him, and instead asked “the president of the Republic of South Africa” to “take note of the findings”. 

She said she couldn’t take remedial action because Mbalula was no longer an MP or Cabinet minister.

Mkhwebane asked the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to “take urgent and appropriate steps” and investigate whether the funds used to pay for Mbalula’s holiday were “not proceeds of money laundering”.

African News Agency (ANA)