Mkhwebane to release report on Mbalula’s 'sponsored' Dubai trip

Eyewitness News revealed a year ago that at least half of the almost R700,000 family holiday was paid for by sporting goods supplier Sedgars Sport.

FILE: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

PRETORIA – Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has confirmed she will release the findings of her investigation into former Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula's holiday to Dubai at her next briefing at the end of this month.

Eyewitness News revealed a year ago that at least half of the almost R700,000 family holiday was paid for by sporting goods supplier Sedgars Sport.

EWN had 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.

Sedgars has denied any wrongdoing while the minister claims the trip was paid for by what he termed family financial resources.

Mkhwebane said at a briefing on Wednesday that the implicated parties have already been afforded an opportunity to respond to her findings.

“Yes, it has been finalised but we’ve got internal processes to make sure that there’s quality and all the aspects of the investigation are covered.

“We’ll have another media briefing at the end of November, so that report will be part of those reports [released at the briefing].”

A 2017 EWN investigation showed that the payment presented at the very least a conflict of interest, because Mbalula was sports minister at the time of this trip, while the company that sponsored 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.

At the time, Sascoc’s Jessica Choga then 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.

Two independent sources had 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 a 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.

When approached again in 2017, Mbalula neither confirmed nor denied Sedgars paid for the trip, but the then minister said there was nothing untoward about the vacation and who paid for it. He reiterated that it was private.