Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula has apologised for his “acts and omissions” after weekend newspaper reports alleged that he had a brief affair with a 27-year-old woman who now claims to be carrying his child.
Independent Newspapers reported on Sunday that Mbalula, a married father of two, had a brief tryst with Joyce Omphemetse Molamu, a North-West mother of one, just before he went to the rugby World Cup in New Zealand this month.
Mbalula apparently met the woman at a function in Houghton on August 26.
That evening he accompanied her to a Joburg apartment where the first of two sexual encounters took place, according to reports.
After initially denying the affair through his lawyers and failing in a court bid on Saturday to prevent the story from being published, Mbalula made a dramatic U-turn, accusing the woman of trying to extort money from him in return for her silence.
On Sunday, he told Sapa that he now regretted having subjected his family to “media allegations and speculation”.
“I have consulted with my family and provided them with information and an explanation for my acts and omissions in regard to the allegations swirling in the media,” Mbalula said on Sunday.
The minister said he had been trying to deal with the matter in a “private manner”, but had decided to cease all communication with Molamu “when it became clear to me that this woman was prepared to extort money from me”.
“I apologise to South African society, the ANC and the South African government.
“From now onwards, this matter shall be dealt with as a private matter by my family. We therefore request the media and everyone else to afford the family time and space at this moment,” the minister pleaded.
He also confirmed that, contrary to initial reports, he would not be laying charges against Molamu for “extortion or blackmail”.
SMS messages purported to be between Mbalula and Molamu suggest the affair turned ugly after Molamu appealed to the minister for R40 000.
This was after Mbalula had sent her R10 000 to cover the cost of an abortion “and other medical attention she might need”.
Mbalula’s lawyer, Themba Langa, accused the media of relying on “untested and baseless allegations” from a person “known to be an extortionist in her social circles”.
“We have SMS messages that demonstrate that she is telling lies…
“She is using City Press to pursue her interest to extort money from our client or to make money from City Press,” he said in a statement responding to the newspaper’s earlier enquiries.
Langa also said it was “false and defamatory for the extortionist to allege that she had a sexual encounter with our client, and City Press cannot become a source of publication to such spurious and false allegations”.
The lawyer also suggested that City Press would be failing in its duty to report fairly on the matter unless it paid for a medical examination to determine whether she was indeed pregnant.
“In this case, all the jurisdictional factors of (the) article that City Press intends to publish are false in that the woman is not pregnant, in so far as it has not been proved by any medical examination which has been paid for by City Press in (the) execution of its duty to report fairly,” Langa said.
But Mbalula contradicted his legal team on the same day.
He admitted to the Sunday Times that he did have an affair with Molamu.
“(Molamu) has told me that she will go public and say I have not used a condom when I slept with her and that I was cheating on my wife with her.
“The truth is that I used a condom with her, but it burst during sex.
“Again, that I was cheating on my wife with her is not true, because my wife and I had separated when I met (Molamu),” Mbalula was quoted as saying.
Molamu has told the media that she has been advised by her own legal representative not to comment on the matter.
The minister went on to describe how, after the condom burst, Molamu had promised to take a so-called morning-after pill and that he was “surprised” to learn of the “so-called pregnancy” on his return from New Zealand.
“I am a responsible man.
“How can I sleep with a woman without protection? She is just bitter that I reconciled with my wife,” he said.
Mbalula is on record as championing the government’s “ABC” (Abstain, Be Faithful and Condomise) message on HIV/Aids, urging citizens to be faithful to their partners during a government-sponsored World Aids Day meeting in Sebokeng last year.
The scandal comes at an awkward time for Mbalula, who is being positioned by the ANC Youth League to replace ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe at the party’s elective congress in Mangaung next year.
However, political commentator Adam Habib on Sunday rejected suggestions that sex scandals involving politicians had any impact on their political fortunes.
South Africans were more tolerant than many other nations when it came to politician’s dalliances, he said.
“I don’t know whether South Africans react in quite the same way to sex scandals. South Africans adopt a much more mature approach to this. We don’t respond in the same way as the Americans do (when their politicians are embroiled in scandal of a sexual nature)”, he told Independent Newspapers. - Political Bureau