Lawyer ‘hijacks’ directorship

2016-09-25 00:00
Tumi Mokwena

Tumi Mokwena

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Polokwane - Land reform beneficiaries in Limpopo are on the brink of losing their multimillion-rand farming enterprise. They are accusing their lawyer of hijacking their project.

The beneficiaries of the R61.4 million Zebediela Citrus Estate in Limpopo are fighting prominent lawyer Tumi Mokwena for allegedly getting a stake in their business through the back door.

Mokwena, who represented Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema in his tax trial, came to Zebediela Citrus as a lawyer last year to represent the 1 500 beneficiaries when they were fighting the removal of a strategic partner, Henley Property Management.

Zebediela Citrus was one of the biggest citrus producers in Africa. In its prime, a decade ago, it produced 830 000 cartons of oranges, which were exported to Asia, Europe and Canada.

But the Bjatladi Communal Property Association (CPA) members discovered Mokwena had become managing director of Zebediela Citrus without their knowledge.

“We don’t know how he became a director of the company,” said Ike Kekana, who is fighting the battle on behalf of his 92-year-old mother, a CPA member.

“[Mokwena] represented the CPA and now he is calling himself the managing director and lives in one of the mansions on the farm, as if he has no legal practice any more. They pay R385 000 a month to a security company and money from the sales of the oranges goes into Mokwena’s trust account,” Kekana complained.

City Press has seen records from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission confirming that Mokwena became a director of Zebediela Citrus on May 4 this year.

Kekana has reported Mokwena to the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, urging the body to investigate him for unethical behaviour, based on correspondence City Press has seen.

Frans Phalane, a CPA member, has deposed an affidavit where he claims that Mokwena asked them to put R4.3 million into his trust account when he represented them in the Henley case.

“At first, he said the fees were R200 000 when he arrived at Zebediela. He asked us to put R2.5 million into his trust account, excluding the R200 000. He later asked for another R1.8 million. He never told us how the money was spent,” Phalane wrote.

Kekana said Zebediela’s workers had not been paid on time and there was no transparency about the company’s finances any more.

Mokwena declined to comment and referred questions to CPA chairperson Mike Masetloa.

“For anyone to be appointed a director of a company, he must be appointed by shareholders. I think shareholders should be asked that question [about my appointment].

“The CPA chairperson will tell you how I was appointed,” Mokwena said.

Masetloa said Kekana had no right to complain. “Kekana’s mother is a beneficiary, not him. We can’t entertain him. I’m sorry. Thank you,” Masetloa said and ended the call.

Read more on:    polokwane  |  land

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