Mbalula’s sobbing Gupta confession: Now he’s ready to tell all
The former sports minister salutes Trevor Manuel for setting the tone at the ‘very important’ Zondo probe
Fikile Mbalula’s weepy admission that he was summoned to the Gupta family’s Saxonwold home and informed he would be made minister of sports and recreation took centre stage at the state capture inquiry on Thursday.
Mbalula is said to have admitted, during an August 2011 meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee, that he was informed by one of the Gupta brothers of his impending appointment.
Two people who were present at the meeting, former cabinet ministers Trevor Manuel and Siphiwe Nyanda, both recalled the incident in their testimonies to the inquiry on Thursday.
Mbalula told Times Select after Manuel’s testimony on Thursday: “An impression must never be created that I am dicey. I think Trevor Manuel today set the tone about the events that unfolded in that meeting. I salute him.
“Me, I will go to the commission and give my statement and, as we speak, I have written to the judge to say what I will need from Trevor.
“The truth shall set us free. I have got no fear because this commission is very important,” said Mbalula.
Manuel began his testimony by outlining the importance of the president’s oath of office.
“My understanding of our constitution is that it vests responsibility, executive authority, in the president. There’s no higher authority.
“In respect of the appointment of ministers, the constitution doesn’t give anybody else the authority to do so. In the oath of office of the president, there’s a commitment to act within the interests to advance the republic and oppose that which weakens it,” he said. He said he recalled a “tense discussion” about the Gupta family at that NEC meeting, which happened about 10 months after Mbalula was appointed as minister of sports and recreation.
“My recollection of that NEC meeting was that there was a tense discussion about the influence of the Guptas. Among the issues emerged from the floor, was why the Guptas were as influential as they were,” Manuel said. “What Mbalula said was that when he was called to Saxonwold, he went there and there he was told he was going to be appointed as minister of sport and recreation. He was first very excited about making it into cabinet, but in retrospect, it should never have been the Guptas or anybody else who told him that. It was the prerogative of the president and that prerogative had been violated in the way the information was shared.”
Manuel questioned why Mbalula accepted the Guptas’ invitation if he did not have a pre-existing relationship with them.
Mbalula was promoted by then president Jacob Zuma to head the department of sports and recreation in October 2010, a day after he apparently visited the Guptas’ home.
Nyanda corroborated much of Manuel’s evidence, but could not recall whether Mbalula cried during his admission.
“He [Mbalula] made such a revelation that he was approached by the Guptas and told that he would become minister of sport before he actually knew, before he was informed by the executive authority, by the president. And indeed he was appointed to that position,” Nyanda said.
“What was remarkable to me was that Mbalula made this standing revelation, it was actually a criticism of the way in which he had been informed about his impending appointment. He was, in other words, disturbed by it.” Earlier in the day, Manuel testified about the effects of state capture on the poor, saying it was an endeavour to remove the controls enshrined in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Manuel said when these controls were removed and reckless spending occurred, the poor were directly affected. “When we drafted the PFMA, there was a fundamental shift from the old norms. The focus was on outputs and responsibilities ... It requires people to act in the best interests of the public. That shift is fundamentally important,” he said.
“When there is reckless spending, almost inevitably, people who are dependent on public services, the poor, are denied access. In the context of state capture, it is actually an endeavour to remove those kinds of controls.”