Tottenham Hotspur sponsorship deal ‘unlawful and invalid’ – Tourism minister Patricia De Lille
In her first media briefing as Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille hammered further nails into the coffin of the controversial sponsorship proposal between SA Tourism and Tottenham Hotspurs.
The legal advice received by new Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille states that the proposed sponsorship deal between SA Tourism and British football club Tottenham Hotspurs is “unlawful and invalid”.
De Lille used her first media briefing on Friday 24 March in her new portfolio to allay public concern over the controversial sponsorship proposal, stating that she had already written to the SA Tourism board to gain clarity over various aspects of what she called “one of the key matters in this portfolio”.
The proposed deal, exposed by Daily Maverick in late January 2023, would have seen SA Tourism spend R1-billion over three years to sponsor one of the English Premier League’s best-known teams.
De Lille said that one of the issues she sought clarity on from the SA Tourism board was whether the sponsorship proposal had been “formally cancelled”. And if so, if proof could be provided.
A response to the minister from board chair Thozamile Botha stated: “There is no Tottenham transaction to be cancelled, as none has been concluded. What exists is an in-principle decision to commence the required processes towards conclusion of the transaction.”
The legal counsel obtained by De Lille advised that the Spurs sponsorship contravened the prescripts of the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act and SA Tourism’s internal supply chain management policy. This was because it amounted to “sole source” procurement without competition, had not been budgeted for, and would have required the prior approval of the relevant minister.
Nature of involvement unknown
The precise nature of former Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s involvement in the proposal is still unknown, though sources at the time told Daily Maverick that she was personally supportive of the deal. Sisulu has always denied as much, but it has been confirmed that she signed off on SA Tourism board members’ travel to London to discuss the deal in January 2023.
Botha’s letter to De Lille on behalf of the board described the board’s original approval of the deal as conditional, because “the board was cognisant of the approvals that are required from both the Minister of Tourism and National Treasury, prior to the transaction being consummated and becoming legally binding”.
Botha also continues to claim that SA Tourism executives were about to embark on the required stakeholder engagements when the decision of the board “was leaked to the media”.
Daily Maverick’s information was, however, that executives were on the verge of returning to London to sign the deal when our first article on the matter was published. The PowerPoint presentations on the deal obtained by Daily Maverick also suggested that President Cyril Ramaphosa would announce the sponsorship during his State of the Nation Address less than two weeks later, begging the question of how the necessary engagements would have been completed by that time.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Presidency calls for ‘cool heads’ as SA Tourism launches witch-hunt for Tottenham deal whistle-blowers
A matter which was not touched on by De Lille during her Friday 24 March briefing was the involvement in the deal of SA Tourism’s former acting CFO Johan van der Walt, who was exposed by Daily Maverick as having close ties to an agency that was set to cash in on the deal. Van der Walt subsequently resigned.
De Lille was asked by journalists whether there would be any consequences for the SA Tourism executives who pushed the deal, including acting CEO Themba Khumalo. The minister did not answer the question directly, saying that she was still gathering information, and awaiting further details from the SA Tourism board.
The board has committed to submitting a “detailed response” to De Lille on aspects including whether the deal amounted to unauthorised or irregular expenditure by 29 March 2023.
De Lille made it clear, however, that her advice to the SA Tourism board “is that the proposal may as well be stopped completely”. DM