Michael Mpofu

Political Bureau

THE Department of Sport and Recreation has failed to divulge the total cost of flying a delegation, including Minister Fikile Mbalula, to the Olympic Games in London.

Ministerial spokesman Paena Galane said yesterday questions over the cost of the trip were “nothing new”. The matter had been addressed at a media briefing on Friday, he said, and referred Independent Newspapers to the statement issued last week.

However, the statement did not reveal the delegation’s travel and accommodation expenses. Instead, it said: “In the absence of our president and deputy president during the Olympics opening ceremony, the minister of sport had to play a prominent role at the ceremony… he duly represented South Africa.”

There was no response to requests for further details by the time of going to print.

The number of delegates from the department remains unknown. The team announced by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) included 125 athletes, 46 officials, 12 medical staff and eight team managers.

The statement described visits by Mbalula and his delegation to support the SA Olympic team, including officiating at the flag-raising ceremony at the Olympic Village. “We inspected the facilities and food, and spoke to athletes, who declared they are comfortable with the set-up. We were also satisfied with what we saw and witnessed.”

This came after reports that expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema stayed in the same hotel as Mbalula and his delegation. 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,” he said.

Mbalula said he had been in London on an official visit as the minister of sport and to lead Team SA at the Olympics. “It was no secret what we were doing in London. I did everything in London that I was supposed to do,” he said.

“I’m not corrupt. Unlike Jackie Selebi these hands are clean.

“I did not pay for Julius.”

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

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

“We are particularly interested whether the state footed the bill for Malema’s stay in the luxurious Corinthia Hotel,” 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 sports department.”