Pretoria - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says former sports minister Fikile Mbalula violated the Executive Members' Ethics Act when a sports apparel company funded his family trip to Dubai in December 2016.
Mkhwebane said on Wednesday that the claim that the sports apparel company Sedgars, which provides sporting clothing to Sascoc, helped fund Mbalula's family trip to Dubai was substantiated.
Mbalula took the trip to Dubai between December 2016 and January 2017. The trip cost R684 620.39.
Mkhwebane said she could not find any evidence that the trip was arranged by Mbalula's office or his family, but that the bookings were made by a "Mr Siweya" on behalf of Mbalula with Munlin Travel - a travel agency.
"When Mbaula departed for Dubai neither did he pay nor know how much the trip would cost and with respect, this was very irresponsible of him as he could not determine whether he would afford the excursion. This is evidenced in his enquiry to Ms Jennifer Baylis of Munlin Travel about the cost of the trip," said Mkhwebane.
The public protector was also not convinced by Mbalula's excuse that he had funded the trip through a loan from Yusuf Dockrat who is a director at Sedgars.
She also did not accept the excuse that the arrangement between the two constituted a "loan" and the claims that Mbalula did not know Sedgars.
"He, however, stated that he had the necessary funds as he had verbally asked for a loan from Mr Dockart so that he could cover the costs of the trip. There is, however, no evidence in my possession that proves that Mr Mbalula requested and/or obtained the loan prior to boarding a flight to Dubai.
"Evidence in my possession indicates that the payments for the trip commenced in February 2017 following repeated demands from Baylis for the minister to settle the costs related to the trip," said Mkhwebane.
The investigation also reveals that there were money exchanges between Dockrat and Mbalula. The exchanges happened months after the trip took place and only after suspicions about the trip were reported on in the media.
"There was an exchange between Mr Mbalula and Mr Dockrat. At Mr Mbalula's behest, the latter (Dockrat) paid R300 000 to Munlin Travel, through one of the bank account of his family business Reimon Uniforms, and on 9 and 10 October 2017, the same dates when the matter was reported on in the media.
"Mr Mbalula paid an amount of 200 000 and R75 000 respectively into the bank accounts of Reimon Uniforms. Both Mr Mbalula and Dockrat they entered into a loan agreement. I do not accept that between them constituted a loan agreement.
"Had the transaction not have been reported in the media, Mr Mbalula would not have paid back the funds. Mr Mbaula sought the funds ex post facto and under extreme pressure," said Mkhwebane.
Mkhwebane said she has not recommended remedial action against Mbalula because he's no longer a Cabinet member or Member of Parliament.