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AfriForum a step closer to prosecuting Mbalula over his Dubai trip

AfriForum says it is a step closer to privately prosecuting the ruling party’s Fikile Mbalula for alleged corruption over his family 2016 vacation in Dubai.

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit collected the docket from South African Police Service (SAPS) after successfully filing a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application.

BACKGROUND TO THE STORY

Sporting goods supplier Sedgars Sports allegedly paid for at least half of Mbalula’s R680,000 family trip to Dubai from 28 December 2016 until 3 January 2017, when he was the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture. 

Sedgars Sports was contracted to supply clothing for the South African Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee (SASCOC), and their business ties date back to 2005.

According to the Democratic Alliance, since SASCOC was under Mbalula’s purview as Sports Minister, there was an apparent conflict of interest and Mbalula breached the Executive Members Ethics Code. However, the politician has insisted that the trip was funded by his family.

In 2023, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) also announced that it would not prosecute Mbalula due to lack of evidence.

NPA spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said political considerations did not influence their decision.

“After police investigations, guided by the prosecutors in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU) office and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) office, a decision to decline to prosecute anyone in this matter was taken, as there is no evidence supporting allegations of criminal activity,” she said.

There was no evidence that the trip was arranged by Mbalula’s office, instead, the bookings were made by a “Mr Siweya” on behalf of Mbalula with Munlin Travel, a Joburg-based travel agency.

In 2017, axed public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found Mbalula of breaching the Executive Ethics Code.

Furthermore, she said there is evidence that suggests that the trip was fully funded by Sedgars Sport.

AFRIFORUM BELIEVES FIKILE MBALULA HAS A CASE TO ANSWER

On Wednesday, AfriForum said its unit was even more convinced that Mbalula had a case to answer. After inspecting the evidence, it is abundantly clear that the decision not to prosecute Mbalula was irrational. 

According to AfriForum, the evidence suggests collusion between witnesses and the SAPS, a failure to obtain statements from important witnesses and possible suspects, a failure to obtain valuable records and data, and poor cooperation between the SAPS and prosecutors.

Additionally, the organisation alleged that the State is withholding certain information. 

Barry Bateman, spokesperson for the unit, said the team will now closely study the docket. 

Bateman said that despite shortfalls, the evidence suggests that Mbalula has several benefactors who fund his extravagant lifestyle. He further questioned why the authorities did not follow up on some leads and why claims made in affidavits were accepted at face value and not scrutinised.

“Notably, a statement from one of Mbalula’s main benefactors was not included in the docket. We are shocked but not surprised because we warned the NPA of a clear conflict of interest because of family relations with a senior NPA official. 

“Mbalula’s matter may be the clearest case yet of selective prosecution, where a politically connected person, and his well-to-do benefactors, is sheltered from prosecution,” Bateman said.

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