By Gift Phiri in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG – A UK-based Zimbabwean bankrolled expelled ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader Julius Malema’s lavish stay at the five-star Corinthia Hotel in London over the past week.
Malema and suspended ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu’s London trip has provoked a storm here after claims that Malema’s close ally Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s sports and recreation minister had used government funds to finance the controversial former ANCYL president’s trip.
Mbalula angrily denied charges that he abused government funds to fund Malema’s trip and described the claims as “rubbish.” It has now emerged that Zimbabwean businessman Conrad Mwanza who allegedly has close ties to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF, organised Malema’s trip.
During his trip, the self-styled economic freedom fighter had a talk with Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, and never missed an opportunity to express his confidence that President Jacob Zuma will be unseated at the forthcoming ANC congress scheduled for Mangaug in December.
Reports that Mbalula was bankrolling Malema’s trip had reached fever pitch here after it was reported that Juju, as he is affectionately known to his supporters, had checked himself into the Corinthia Hotel to be close to Mbalula — a man he wants to replace Gwede Mantashe as ANC secretary general.
Mbalula was in the UK for the Olympic Games. But it has since emerged Mwanza was picking up Malema’s tab at the five-star hotel, where a deluxe room is going for £517 while a top-end suite is going for £1 950 per night.
Mwanza, a Zimbabwean of Zambian descent, settled in London after spending a considerable amount of time in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo. Mwanza is into events management, and has organised beauty pageants such as the Miss Southern Africa.
He is also the man behind the Zimachievers Awards, a competition that recognises outstanding Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in various fields. The Zimachievers competition was a successor to the Zimawards UK.
During Malema’s trip, Mwanza hosted a networking meeting where Malema was the guest speaker for which patrons forked out £20 as cover charge. Sources in London said the event was sold out.
Mwanza, whose phone rang unanswered when the Daily News attempted to obtain a comment from him yesterday, told the Sowetan newspaper his events management company had invited Malema. “Julius is very popular among the Caribbean community in the United Kingdom,” Mwanza said.
“They believe in what he advocates in terms of the economic emancipation of the African people. They see him as someone who is fighting to improve the lives of the people of Africa. We applied for his (travel) papers at the Home Office and we arranged all the meetings and interviews he attended.”
Mwanza recently invited Supa Mandiwanzira to the UK just before he was dethroned as the president of the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) — Zimbabwe’s leading voice for economic empowerment. Mwanza is also behind the Zimbabwe Business Network in the UK. Daily News
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