Living the high life – Fikile Mbalula

After reading this expose’ of our hedonistic, globe-trotting, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, I was tempted to rename him Fikile Ngalula, which literally and somewhat-too-kindly translated, means “to arrive easily”. Very easily. You’d be forgiven for concluding, after a quick read of his exploits and spending below, that we’re profiling a multi-millionaire tending to his global empire in the style to which he is accustomed and can afford. Except Mbalula is habituated to luxury travel and plush accommodation at the expense of the starving, unemployed masses. If you were shocked by the trash-bag evidence of the EFF’s profligate lifestyle picked out by Marianne Thamm, try witnessing the way of life of one of our cabinet ministers, whom it seems is oblivious to belt-tightening calls by party seniors. As usual Ed Herbst hones in unerringly on the worst of our political fat cats. Who needs State Capture when you can live like this, legally (it seems)? Perhaps not; charges are finally pending on a sports-gear-sponsored Mbalula family holiday to Dubai. Watch this gravy-smeared space… – Chris Bateman

The hedonistic life of Mbaks (#fearfokall) Razzmatazz

By Ed Herbst*

Mbalula has spent R110m on awards ceremonies in two years; the three-year Olympic budget is R25m. – A completely useless individual Gareth van Onselen Business Day 3/9/2016

The Sunday Times reported this weekend that MPs receive 84 free flights, accommodation, three-course meals (including liquor) and salaries of up to R2.4m a year. In addition, each member is allowed R10,000 a month for travel allowances. Given the state of the government departments and state-owned entities, which are all bankrupt, this is obscene. To think that most poor households in SA live below the breadline. – MP greed has no bounds Nathan Chieman – Business Day letter 3/9/2019

Fikile Mbalula

Paul O’ Sullivan expects the first corruption arrests by Christmas and President Cyril Ramaphosa was upbeat when he addressed the 28th World Economic Forum summit on Africa last week.

At the same time, the extent of the challenge he faces – from within the ranks of his own party – became obvious in parliament recently.

For two decades ANC office-bearers at all levels of government have pigged out on food and cars and overseas trips at taxpayers’ expense and Pravin Gordhan’s 2013 commitment to revise the parliamentary guidebook in this regard was welcomed by taxpayers – but not the ANC’s rank and file.

ANC opposition to the loss of such perks and privileges made it onto the front page of the Sunday Times a week ago.

Mbalula

But the personification of a Fat-Cat MP, also raised in parliament, gained no traction other than in the Naspers newspapers.

In response to a question by the Democratic Alliance, the Department of Transport provided the information which was used for an article by Francois Williams.

Its translated headline read: ‘Fikile’s Travels’: The travelling minister of transport

The response revealed that the Minister of Transport, Mbaks (#fearfokall Razzmatazz) Mbalula, will be visiting at least eleven countries in the next three years at a cost – and counting – to the taxpayer of more than R22m.

Here’s his destination list provided by the Department of Transport:

2019/20

  1. Cartagena 
  2. Montreal (two trips)
  3. Dar es Salaam 
  4. New York 
  5. Abu Dhabi 
  6. Singapore
  7. Torremolinos 
  8. London (two trips)
  9. Geneva 
  10. Stockholm

2020/21

  1. Montreal (two trips)
  2. London (two trips)

2021/22

  1. Montreal (two trips)
  2. London (three trips)
  3. Bandar Abbas

On each trip he will be accompanied by an entourage of at least five officials and everyone will travel first class, stay in the most expensive hotels available at their destinations, dine at exclusive restaurants and will swan around in chauffeured limousines.

It’s not known as ‘Gravy Plane’ travel for nothing.

What is clear is that this is a provisional list and his gravy plane costs will probably end up being in the region of R60m.

Is this not an astonishing achievement given that he was appointed to the position a little more than three months ago?

All this while the ANC shows no compassion to the parents of a child who drowned in a pit toilet; while thousands of poor people are denied access to life-saving medical procedures;  a baby is burnt to death in a hospital incubator; the Eastern Cape health system has effectively collapsed and the situation in the Free State is equally dire; hospitals have become potential death traps;  communities lack water; we have the lowest life expectancy in the world; our roads are unsafe; ANC-controlled municipalities are bankrupt and dysfunctional; our rail and road transport systems experience relentless and brazen sabotage; the SAPS Marikana murderers remain at liberty and there is no money to solve the debt crisis of the thoroughly-broken state broadcaster caused by the wanton looting over decades by the ANC’s illegally-deployed cadres. 

The list of deserving causes is endless but #fearfokall parties on regardless and the ANC MPs want to party with him.

Widely derided as the ‘Minister of Social Media’, he craves the limelight like a junkie craves a fix.

Ask citizens what this sybarite-at-the-expense-of-others has done to benefit their lives and the response will be a blank stare and a collective heave.

Oleaginous courtier

And if this oleaginous courtier of the rich and famous cannot dun the taxpayer for his overseas travel costs, he will find another way.

Which brings me to AfriForum.

In January 1917 Adriaan Basson wrote an article headlined Gerrie Nel is making the mistake of his life.

Well, he got that wrong didn’t he?

A month ago AfriForum laid charges against Mbalula relating to the finding of the Public Protector in December last year.

She ruled that Mbalula had transgressed the Executive Ethics Act and the constitution by asking a Sascoc sporting goods supplier, Sedgars Sports, to help him pay for his 2016 family holiday to Dubai.

Bombast and braggadocio are the hallmarks of Mbalula, but we will see how he fares when he testifies under oath in court.

He initially denied having an adulterous affair with a model in what became known as the ‘Blue Light Convoy One Night Stand’.

So how did Joyce Omphemetse Molamu rate the priapic prowess of our peripatetic world-wide wanderer at your expense and mine?

She was profoundly underwhelmed, describing him as ‘just a shag’.

Those who spend time on social media seem to find him mildly amusing but it doesn’t work for me. He is, for example, a great supporter of Bell Pottinger’s White Monopoly Capital mantra despite the fact that it has been roundly rejected by the African National Congress and he is also a mockering pedant of note.

When he was the Minister of Sport and Recreation he took the recreation – his own – very seriously as the anchor quote to this article by Gareth van Onselen indicates.

According to a book by Mandy Weiner, one of #fearfokall’s earliest mentors was Brett Kebble, he tends to the bibulous, is the life and soul of the party and his favourite tipple (surprise, surprise) is Johnny Walker Blue.

It all adds up, doesn’t it? And the enduring trait of his life is that the bar tab is always picked up by someone else.

If #fearfokall Razmatazz is the best the ANC can do, then Cyril Ramaphosa’s road to redemption – on behalf of all of us – is going to be long and arduous.

  • Ed Herbst is a veteran journalist who these days writes in his own capacity.