Biography: Fikile Mbalula is a prominent South African politician who has been serving as the Secretary-General of the African National Congress (ANC) since December 2022. He has also held various cabinet positions, including Minister of Transport, Minister of Police, and Minister of Sport and Recreation. He is known for his outspoken and controversial style and his involvement in several scandals and controversies.
Early Life and Education
Fikile Mbalula was born on 8 April 1971 on a farm near Botshabelo, a township outside Bloemfontein in the former Orange Free State. He grew up in a poor and politically active family and joined the struggle against apartheid at a young age. He became involved in the youth congresses and the United Democratic Front and later joined the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in 1990.
Mbalula completed his matric at Sehunelo Secondary School in 1991 and then enrolled at the University of the Free State, where he studied Economics. He also attended the Careers Research and Information Centre and received leadership training. He obtained his master’s degree in Economics from the University of the Free State in 1997.
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Fikile Mbalula Political Career
Mbalula’s political career began in the ANCYL, where he rose through the ranks to become the provincial secretary of the Free State in 1994 and then the national secretary for political education in 1996. He was elected as the president of the ANCYL in 2004, succeeding Malusi Gigaba. He was a vocal supporter of Jacob Zuma, whom he backed at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference, where he also became a member of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) and the head of elections and organisation.
Mbalula was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Police in Zuma’s cabinet in May 2009 and then promoted to the Minister of Sport and Recreation in November 2010. He was responsible for hosting several major sporting events, such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, and the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid. He also initiated several programmes to promote sport and recreation among the youth and disadvantaged communities.
Mbaluka was moved to the Ministry of Police in March 2017, where he faced several challenges, such as rising crime rates, police corruption, and political interference. He clashed with the former police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, and the head of the Hawks, Berning Ntlemeza, over their appointments and performance. He also introduced the Tactical Response Team, also known as the “Amaberete”, to combat violent crimes and protests.
Mbalula was dropped from the cabinet in February 2018 after Cyril Ramaphosa became the president of South Africa. He remained a member of the ANC NEC and the head of elections and led the ANC’s campaign for the 2019 general election. He was reappointed to the cabinet as the Minister of Transport in May 2019, where he oversaw several projects, such as the expansion of the Gautrain, the upgrade of the road network, and the implementation of the e-toll system.
Mbalula was elected as the Secretary-General of the ANC at the party’s 55th National Conference in December 2022, defeating Ace Magashule, who was suspended for corruption charges. He became the chief administrator and spokesperson of the ANC and the custodian of its constitution and policies. He also played a key role in resolving the party’s internal divisions and factions and strengthening its alliance with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
Fikile Mbalula Personal Life and Controversies
Mbalula is married to Nozuko Mbalula, and they have three children together. He is a devout Christian and a member of the Zion Christian Church. He is also an avid sports fan and supports the Kaizer Chiefs football club.
Mbalula has been involved in several scandals and controversies throughout his career. He has been accused of misusing public funds, accepting bribes, and having extramarital affairs. Some of the notable incidents are:
- In 2011, he admitted that he had an affair with a model, Joyce Molamu, who claimed that he had impregnated her and refused to pay for an abortion. He later apologised to his wife and the public and said that he had paid for the abortion and offered to pay maintenance for the child.
- In 2012, he was accused of spending R680,000 of taxpayers’ money on a family holiday to Dubai in 2016, which was allegedly paid for by a company that had received contracts from his ministry. He denied the allegations and said he had paid himself for the trip.
- In 2017, he was implicated in the Gupta leaks, which revealed that he had received instructions and advice from the Gupta family, a wealthy and influential business family that had close ties with Zuma and his allies. He admitted that he had met with the Guptas but denied that they had any influence over his decisions.
- In 2018, he was sued by a car rental company, Afrirent, for failing to pay R1.4 million for the rental of a Mercedes-Benz Viano that he had used for 18 months. He claimed that he had returned the car and that the invoice was fraudulent.
- In 2019, he was criticised for his comments on Twitter, where he insulted and threatened several people, including journalists, politicians, and celebrities. He also posted several controversial and provocative tweets, such as calling for the death penalty for rapists and mocking Zimbabweans for their economic crisis.