Mike Mlengana, director-general of the department of agriculture, forestry and fishing, believes he was suspended because he refused to sign a massive contract.The contract, with a company owned by two former police generals, was reportedly put in front of him without the proper tender process for contracts in excess of R500 000 being followed.Shock waves went through the agriculture community when Minister Senzeni Zokwana announced Mlengana’s suspension on Wednesday.Mlengana, a farmer and former president of the Association of Black Farmers (Afasa), barely held the post for a year, but was lauded by organised agriculture because he understood the industry so well.The suspended director-general said he and Zokwana had had a bad relationship for some time, but said he knew he would be suspended when he objected to the minister’s decision to award the tender to The iFirm, which is owned by former generals Mzandile Petros and Thulani Ntobela.Petros is the former police commissioner of Gauteng and Ntobela the former police commissioner of Mpumalanga.Mlengana said he felt uncomfortable when Zokwana asked him to sign the contract, as the minister insisted the proper tender procedure had been followed.“I signed the contract, but did not initial it. I then referred it to our legal department for an opinion. There were many mistakes in the contract – I was referred to as a member of Parliament, while I am not an MP.“The contract was for a three-year period, but there was no mention of the cost,” said Mlengana.He said Zokwana wanted to appoint The iFirm to provide security services and the investigate allegations of corruption in the department.“I told him we had the police to look after us and the auditor-general to investigate our finances,” he said.At the end of June, Mlengana asked Zokwana to withdraw the contract and sent the minister a letter in which he pointed out the mistakes in the contract, as well as the fact that a proper tender process had not been followed.Barely two weeks later, on July 7, Mlengana was told Zokwana would be suspending him because of his underperformance at work.In response to questions, Zokwana’s spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo said the department would not comment until the investigation into Mlengana had been completed.However, when questioned, Ntobela said while The iFirm does not currently have a contract with the department, they were appointed by the department to investigate alleged corruption in the appointment of service providers in the fisheries division.He said this investigation was completed with Mlengana’s support and The iFirm recommended that four senior officials in the department be prosecuted. Ntobela said it was unclear whether Mlengana was one of the four.Ntobela denied that he and Petros were friends of Zokwana, but added: “We can confirm that the minister was once a client of the company.”The Special Investigative Unit (SIU) told a parliamentary portfolio committee in November last year that a R302m contract awarded to The iFirm by the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) contained irregularities. Sita stopped all payments to The iFirm and went to court to have the contract set aside.Ntobela said he was not aware of the investigation and had never been contacted by the SIU.