Cape Town – South African Tourism (SAT) acting chief executive Themba Khumalo has “apologised unreservedly” to South Africans for coming across as arrogant at last week’s media briefing about English Premier League soccer club sponsorship.
This happened when SAT appeared before the tourism portfolio committee on Tuesday to account about the nearly R1 billion sponsorship deal to Tottenham Hotspurs soccer club.
“I apologise unreservedly to this committee and the South African public for coming across in the manner that was arrogant and probably over self-confident in that presentation.
“It was motivated by the fact that I was under personal attack on social media. I felt under pressure at that moment,” Khumalo told the MPs.
“I apologise for my conduct in that briefing. Please forgive me,” he said.
His apology came after committee chairperson Tandi Mahambehlala said they had seen Khumalo in the presser talking to South Africans very arrogantly.
“We felt as we were sitting in the comfort of our homes that he was speaking to South Africans as if he was speaking to his children.
“Now is an opportunity to look at us and say all that he was presenting, not looking at camera as he consistently highlighted ‘let me look at the camera’,” Mahambehlala said.
She charged that it was an “embarrassing moment” they did not take lightly.
At the start of the meeting, Mahambehlala noted that there were “two chairpersons of the board” and one who previously held that position was now an ordinary board member.
“It’s a mix masala (chaos). In actual fact, it characterises the situation we find ourselves in as a country. Clearly there is instability there,” she said.
“Our oversight is tested. South Africans are looking at us whether we are decisive or not as legislators in our oversight role as we are gathered here today,” Mahambehlala said.
She then informed the MPs that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was not coming to the meeting.
“We will have the board not introduced to us officially. That alone is very problematic. I don’t know mhlawumbi ndinochuku (maybe I am being difficult)”.
She also said Deputy Minister Fish Mahlalela had submitted an apology.
“In a nutshell this collective that is here is leaderless in terms of political office. That’s it,” Mahambehlala said.
ANC MP Heinrich April said Sisulu had been snubbing the committee for the longest time.
“I am shocked the minister is still not here. It shows the kind of disrespect for Parliament and the work we do,” April said.
DA MP Manny de Freitas said: “The minister issue is a long-standing one. Perhaps we should discuss it later or in a future meeting.”
ANC MP Pumeza Mpushe said the absence of the executive could be deliberate.
“They must tell us why they are here without this minister,” Mpushe said.
She noted that the tourism department’s head was also not in the meeting.
“We can’t allow the board members who were just elected to respond to things and actions of the minister.
“SAT is not just an entity to do things as they wish. There is an act governing their actions and how they operate,” she said, adding that they were expecting Sisulu to appear before the committee after they previously sent her summons.
She expressed her disappointment that Sisulu was not in attendance, saying: “I think this is a deliberate move.”
Mahambehlala said they would not send the board packing, but as MPs they had a responsibility to play oversight.
“South Africa is looking at us and we can’t fail the country,” she said.
“We have had a minister that has been a law unto herself, never attended portfolio committee meetings and is still not here on a crucial matter.”
Mahambehlala also raised concerns with the reconstituted board of SAT after new chairperson Thozamile Botha and two others were appointed at the weekend.
“Dr Thozamile Botha will listen and won’t say a thing because we don’t want to be misled on matters of importance,” she said.
“We want to understand how you have arrived at this particular issue. They came ready thinking we are (here) to send them packing. Not today, we are not sending them packing,” Mahambehlala said before allowing SAT to make a presentation.