CLOSE FRIENDS: Julius Malema and Conrad Mwanza in the foyer of the five-star Corinthia Hotel.
Expelled ANC Youth League leader and self-proclaimed economic freedom fighter Julius Malema is staying in the lap of luxury in the five-star Corinthia Hotel in London.
Highly placed sources, who asked not to be named, told The New Age yesterday that Malema and suspended ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu were flown to London by a group of business people, who wanted to use Malema’s name to popularise their businesses.
The same source confirmed that Malema booked himself into the Corinthia to be close to his ally, Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula. According to the sources, the duo jetted into London on Sunday afternoon and had been seen at various at events with Mbalula.
The Corinthia’s tariff per night for a deluxe room is £571 or R7400. A top end suite would set you back £1950 or R25250 per night. “I don’t know who’s footing the bills of Malema and Shivambu but they cannot easily afford to stay for a couple of days in that expensive hotel,” said a source. “It seems their stay is at the expense of the South African government and is facilitated by Malema’s connection with Mbalula. They don’t appear together in public for fear of being captured by the South African media workers who are here for the Olympic Games. But I can tell you that they are always together in the hotel.”
When The New Age called the Corinthia Hotel yesterday, a woman who asked not to be named transferred the call to both Malema and Mbalula’s separate rooms. The phone in Malema’s room rang unanswered, while Mbalula answered and shouted when asked if he was staying with Malema in that hotel. “You have the guts to call me in my hotel room and ask me about Malema, who is a private citizen. You think you are undermining me in this way. You think I can use the government’s money to pay for Malema’s trip and accommodation? If you think Malema is living in this hotel at the expense of the sports ministry, then produce evidence. What your sources told you is rubbish,” Mbalula shouted.
Asked if he had seen Malema in London since his arrival for the Olympics Games last week, Mbalula said: “I’m not responsible for Julius’s programmes. Go and ask him.”
According to the source, Mbalula’s association with Malema in London has irked the South Africa’s High Commissioner in the UK, Zola Skweyiya.
“They are playing with fire because Skweyiya can see everything and he is not happy, especially because Mbalula is a top ANC member and he is here on an official visit,” said the source.
Prior to his ANC expulsion, Malema had been agitating for ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe to be replaced with Mbalula. Another source said Malema’s trip was organised by Conrad Mwanza, who is reportedly a Zimbabwean businessman who has ties with the Zanu-PF. Mwanza’s phone rang unanswered.
During his visit to the UK, Malema has given various interviews to the media where he expresses his confidence in President Jacob Zuma being unseated at the upcoming ANC elective conference to be held in Mangaug in December this year.