(File image) Julius Malema. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Mystery surrounded expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema's trip to London this week as to who was footing the lavish bill for his stay in the UK capital.

Friends of the Youth League on Wednesday said Malema was invited to London by organisations who wanted him to address them.

“It (the trip) was not organised by us, it was organised by those who have invited us to London,” Mandla Seopela said.

He said the Malema lobby group was not paying for the trip, but he was not quite sure who was.

“I don't know who is paying the expenses. (The) people who invited him will definitely pay, that is my assumption.”

Seopela said Malema would return from London on Thursday.

While in the British capital Malema was staying at the five-star Corinthia hotel in Whitehall Place, SW London.

When Sapa called the hotel asking to speak to Malema the receptionist immediately put the call through to his room.

“How can you call me on my room number? You're invading my privacy,” Malema said during the telephone call.

He refused to give any information regarding his trip to London before putting the phone down.

The former youth league head has been in the British capital since Sunday. During his visit he had interviews with the BBC's World Service and Sky News.

Malema was reportedly accompanied by suspended ANCYL spokesman Floyd Shivambu.

However, when Sapa phoned the Corinthia a second time and asked to go through to Shivambu's room the receptionist said he was not on the guest register.

According to a report in The New Age on Wednesday, Malema booked himself into the five-star hotel so that he could be close to his ally, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.

An unnamed source told the newspaper that the South African government was footing Malema's hotel bill.

The cost of a room at the Corinthia was between UK571 (R7400) and UK1950 (R25,250).

“It seems their stay... is facilitated by Malema's connection with 1/8Fikile 3/8 Mbalula... I can tell you they are always together in the hotel,” the source was quoted as saying.

Malema and Shivambu had reportedly been seen at various events in London with Mbalula.

The department of sport could not be immediately reached for comment on whether it was sponsoring Malema's trip.

The ANCYL said it could not shed any light on Malema's visit to London or on who was paying for him.

“We have no connection to Julius. We are watching the drama unfold like you guys,” spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni-Khawe said.

“We don't know what is happening.” - Sapa