Pretoria - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has allegedly accused Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan of leaking damaging information about him in order to undermine and cause a rift between him and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mbalula also accused Phumla Williams, the chief executive of the GCIS, of failing to defend him from “attacks” by Gordhan and the media, according to sources.
This came after the Pretoria News’s sister paper, the Sunday Independent reported over the weekend that Ramaphosa had kicked Mbalula out of a meeting for failing to read Cabinet memos and prepare.
The paper further reported that Mbalula’s ordeal, which saw him ordered out of the government’s Economic Investment, Employment and Infrastructure Development virtual meeting last week, followed repeated complaints from Gordhan and other Cabinet colleagues about limited input.
They said that after the story trended on Sunday an angry Mbalula asked Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Williams, who had ignored Sunday Independent questions to “clarify” the matter.
“After reading the newspaper on Sunday and (saw) the story was damaging to him since it was the trending story and he felt attacked by Pravin and Piet (Rampedi)” one source said.
“He told Phumla and Mondli that they must clarify the issue of leaking of the incident to the press.”
Another said Mbalula also asked Williams and Gungubele why the GCIS did not respond to the Sunday Independent query about the incident.
“He told Mondli he was not happy with the GCIS response to the Sunday Independent query which led to the statement of yesterday (Monday) by Phumla,” the second source added.
Mbalula took many by surprise when he used the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) media briefing on Monday to lambast unnamed people who leaked details of confidential Cabinet meetings. The minister, who appeared angry, added that the same people had unsuccessfully tried to interfere in Sanral procurement processes, which was akin to tender corruption and state capture.
“One thing I wish to address them about is that they are asking me to do things in the dark, which were condemned in the state capture. That’s not how we run this country. You cannot ask the minister to intervene in matters of tenders, which were condemned not so long ago. But the same people, in the dark, leak matters to the media and come to the minister through their telephones and basically ask me to switch on and off the board,” Mbalula said.
The sources claimed that Mbalula was referring to Gordhan, whom he felt had been undermining him as a Cabinet colleague for years.
“Remember the Ipad story during Covid-19 lockdown in Cape Town – Mbalula gave his inputs for the president’s speech. When the president was supposed to deliver the speech the Ipad got lost. It was not lost,” said the source, who also alleged that Gordhan and others had taken the iPad and edited out Mbalula’s inputs.
He added that Mbalula felt that Gordhan undermined him during the “missing Ipad” incident. “Yesterday, he complained that there were ministers who used to leak what happened at the Cabinet. And this was a sustained attack on him, especially on Cabinet ministers.”
Mbulula yesterday referred the Pretoria News to the statement released by Williams on Monday, saying “this was a government response to your trash story of lies”. The statement, which quoted Gungubele, said the story about Ramaphosa sending Mbalula packing was “mischievous” journalism.
“Government rejects the mischievous article by the Sunday Independent newspaper, which alleges that President Ramaphosa asked Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to leave a meeting for being unprepared and failing to read Cabinet memos. These allegations are unfounded and deliberately mislead members of the public.
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said: “Cabinet discussions are confidential. This has been a long-standing convention and thus these allegations are unfounded.” Gordhan spokesperson Richard Mantu acknowledged the questions but didn’t respond. Williams said the government issued the statement on Monday and had nothing to add.