AfriForum moves to privately prosecute Mbalula over Dubai trip

AfriForum has reignited the controversy surrounding ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula’s family vacation to Dubai.

The organisation announced on Wednesday that it has acquired a case docket and indicated that it will move forward with private prosecution of Mbalula.

This comes months after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decided not to charge Mbalula in connection with allegations regarding funding for his family trips to Dubai in 2016 and 2017.

The trips took place during Mbalula’s tenure as minister of sport and recreation.

The NPA said at the time that the decision followed a thorough investigation into claims made in the public protector’s report released on December 19, 2019.

According to the report, Sedgars Sports, a well-known South African sports apparel retailer, may have contributed to the Mbalula family’s lavish vacation while he served as sport minister. 

Former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had also drawn interest in the case and called for the NPA to look into the matter and assess whether the trip was linked to money-laundering proceeds.

The Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU) and the director of public prosecutions (DPP) office then jointly led an investigation into the matter.

Lack of evidence

Lumka Mahanjana, the NPA regional spokesperson, confirmed that the decision to decline prosecution was based on a lack of evidence.

“After police investigations, guided by the prosecutors in the Pretoria SCCU office and the DPP office, a decision to decline to prosecute anyone in this matter was taken,” said Mahanjana.

She added that there was no evidence supporting allegations of criminal activity.

Barry Bateman, the spokesperson for AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, expressed concerns on Wednesday regarding how the police and the NPA handled the investigation.

He confirmed that the private prosecution unit has collected the investigation docket following a successful Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application.

Upon reviewing the evidence, the unit believes there are clear grounds for prosecution, indicating that the decision not to prosecute Mbalula was irrational.

Inadequate investigation criticised

Bateman criticised the police for their alleged inadequate investigation, citing collusion between witnesses and the police, failure to gather statements from key witnesses and suspects, and a lack of valuable records and data.

He also pointed to poor cooperation between the police and prosecutors as a significant flaw in the investigation process.

“It is not that evidence is missing that suggests collusion, but rather how the evidence was gathered and the communication between the Hawks and witnesses that reveals possible collusion,” he told Sunday World.

According to Bateman, the unit discovered that important portions of the investigation record were not disclosed, even after the PAIA application.

Notably, a statement from one of Mbalula’s main benefactors was missing from the docket.

Bateman finds this omission alarming but not surprising, given the suspected conflict of interest within the NPA due to familial ties with a senior official.

Shielded from prosecution

“The missing statement does not undermine strength of the case. Rather, the absence suggests an unwillingness of the Hawks investigator to properly investigate the case,” he said.

He suggests that Mbalula is being shielded from prosecution due to his political connections and wealthy benefactors, criticising the NPA for not following up on significant leads and for accepting claims made in affidavits without proper scrutiny.

This, he argues, exemplifies selective prosecution, where politically connected individuals are protected from legal consequences.

Despite these challenges, Bateman emphasised the unit’s strengthened resolve to ensure Mbalula faces justice.

“We have not ruled out going to court to compel the relevant parties to act in accordance with the law,” he said.

“Despite shortfalls in the docket, there is a case for Mbalula to answer. The decision not to prosecute, after studying the available evidence, is clearly irrational.”

  • The story will be updated with Mbalula’s comment

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