[EXCLUSIVE] Mbalula’s R680k Dubai trip bankrolled by sports supplier Sedgars

At the time of the trip, Fikile Mbalula was Sports Minister, while the company that sponsored involved was doing business with the Sascoc.

FILE: Fikile Mbalula. Picture: EWN

PRETORIA - An Eyewitness News investigation has established that a sporting goods supplier allegedly paid at least R300,000 – and possibly as much as R680,000 – for a trip to Dubai by Minister Fikile Mbalula and his family last year.

The payment presents at the very least a conflict of interest, because Mbalula was Sports Minister at the time of this trip, while the company that sponsored involved was doing business with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

The investigation suggests that Sedgars Sports sponsored at least part of the Mbalulas’ getaway in late 2016, by channelling money through an apparently inactive company called Reimon Uniforms. Sedgars has been a supplier of clothing to Sascoc for more than a decade.

Sascoc’s Jessica Choga confirmed to EWN that Sedgars supplied the formal clothing worn by South Africa’s Olympic athletes and officials. She said while there was no formal contract with Sedgars, Sascoc did and continues to buy clothing from the company on a needs basis.

Public reports reveal that Sascoc’s business relationship with Sedgars extends as far back as 2005, when talks began about the company manufacturing outfits for Team South Africa. At the time, it was reported that the company had produced clothing for the country’s athletics, boxing and beach volleyball competitors.

EWN has established that Mbalula, his wife and three children departed from Johannesburg on 28 December 2016 and returned on 3 January 2017. The family stayed at the Atlantis, The Palm Hotel in Dubai, developed by Sol Kerzner’s Kerzner International Holdings and internationally acclaimed for its Atlantis-themed waterpark. The entire holiday package including return affairs cost about R680,000.

Two independent sources confirmed that Sedgars paid for at least half of the trip. Two payments were made from a bank account linked to Reimon Uniforms on 28 February 2017 – the first of R200,000 and then a further R100,000 – to Johannesburg-based travel agency, Munlin Travel. Reimon Uniforms appears to be an inactive company whose bank account accepts and channels funds from Sedgars-linked accounts to various other parties.

It is not clear how or when the remaining balance on the trip was settled, however, it’s believed it may have been paid in cash.

An official from Munlin Travel, who declined to be identified, would neither confirm nor deny booking the holiday for Mbalula or who paid for it, citing client confidentially.

The minister himself would also neither confirm nor deny that Sedgars had paid for the trip. EWN first approached Mbalula for comment in July, but he refused to give a straight answer and was dismissive of a request for clarity on the payments.

“What is the name of the company or the person who paid for the trip?’ he asked. “Maybe Guptas (sic) paid for it.”

At the time, EWN had not established who the benefactor was, only that the trip had been paid for by a third party.

Mbalula appeared to believe he was being treated unfairly. “I take this as invasion (sic) of my privacy and calling into question my family responsibilities without an iota of proof how a private trip or vacation become a media query (sic).

“Those who allege wrongdoing should equally furnish you with facts. Now this is more like a witch-hunt and you jump into it. This is really unfair and abusive.”

When pressed further on the matter in September, he issued another terse response:

“You are invading my privacy if you think I've transgressed executive or members code [sic] as you claim. My family trip is a confidential matter in terms of ethics code. So, once again, this is a private matter and there’s no conflict of interest whatsoever. My rights are reserved.”

When Sedgars Sports was asked about the trip, director Yusuf Dockrat responded by saying that the company “has never made any payments as alleged.”

While Dockrat denied any link between Sedgars and Reimon Uniforms, saying their relationship was purely one of client and supplier, company records and online resources suggest otherwise:

• Dockrat is a former director of a company called Barns of Investment. Its postal address is 2372 Vereeniging.

• Reimon Uniforms lists its postal address as 2372 Vereeniging.

• The current director of Reimon Uniforms is listed as Zakiya Dockrat, believed to be a relative of Yusuf Dockrat.

• Ananda Arangies is listed as a former director of Reimon Uniforms. Her LinkedIn profile lists her as currently employed by Sedgars.

When these facts were put to Dockrat, he declined to discuss the matter further: “I believe that I have engaged adequately with you and will not respond to your email. Should you publish an article relating to this matter I reserve my rights”.

Parliament’s member’s code of conduct requires parliamentarians to declare foreign travel, except “personal visits paid by the Member, business visits unrelated to the Member’s role as a public representative, and official and formal visits paid for by an organ of State or the Member’s party”. The details to be declared include a brief description of the journey, particulars of the sponsor and the estimated value of travel, accommodation and subsistence and travel allowances.

It’s not clear if Mbalula has disclosed this trip to the ethics committee.