'R1m bribe' for Zuma exposes crisis levels of abalone poaching - DA

2018-03-25 22:56
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former president Jacob Zuma.

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The R1m cash bribe allegedly paid to former president Jacob Zuma by an abalone dealer, in exchange for keeping Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana in Cabinet exposes the murky world of abalone poaching, which has reached crisis levels, said the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Responding to the allegations in a statement, DA MP Pieter van Dalen said the blame lies squarely at the feet of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) which currently presides over an opaque process of disposing confiscated abalone.

"The sale of confiscated abalone remains hidden from public scrutiny, creating opportunities for illegal trade in the sector," said Van Dalen.

"It is clear that proceeds of the sale of confiscated Abalone is subsidizing the day to day running of the department hence its reluctance to do anything."

"In doing so, the Department is going against established best practice which dictates that the proceeds of crime should be ring-fenced to fight that crime."

City Press reported that Chaile Seretse, the chief operating officer at abalone processing company Willjarro in Gaansbaai, alleges that the bribe was orchestrated by agriculture department deputy director-general Siphokazi Ndudane, James Booi and Fryman Baaitjies to prevent Zuma from removing Zokwana from his Cabinet shortly after the local government elections in 2016.

READ: Hawks probe Zuma for 'R1m bribe'

Booi and Baaitjies, who are also based in Gaansbaai, have interests in fishing and abalone processing.

In an affidavit deposed at the Lyttelton Police Station in Centurion in December, Seretse further alleges that Zokwana, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and Ndudane each received a R300 000 bribe from the same businessman – Deon Larry – who is also a convicted child molester.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi this week confirmed that the Hawks were investigating the bribery claims against Zuma, Zokwana, Dlamini and Ndudane.

“These are quite serious allegations. And the matter is being looked at by the Hawks’ serious corruption and serious economic offences units," he said.

"It is still at an inquiry stage, but based on the allegations made, it looks like a docket will be opened up soon. And once the investigation is completed, we will hand over the docket to the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] to decide what to do,” said Mulaudzi.

SAFTU expresses outrage

Meanwhile, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) said they were outraged by the serious allegations that Zuma along with Zokwana, Dlamini and Ndudane accepted bribes.

If the allegations are true, then it is an "utter disgrace that workers’ leaders who were elected to represent the workers and the poor are enriching themselves, collaborating with the discredited former president and in league with a convicted criminal", said SAFTU in a statement.

"This report casts light on the appalling degeneration of the leaders of once proud and principled workers’ organisations. It helps to explain why COSATU expelled unions and dismissed leaders who put the interests of the workers before those of themselves."

City Press reported on Sunday that Baaitjies and Dlamini declined to comment on the allegations and that Vukile Mathabela, who received the questions on behalf of Zuma, failed to respond to questions sent to him more than a week ago.

'A defamation campaign'

Responding on behalf of Zokwana and Ndudane, attorney Barnabas Xulu said his clients became aware of the allegations when another newspaper enquired about them in January.

"In consideration of the fact that our clients do not wish to interfere in a police investigation, our clients hereby refrain from answering questions relating to this matter until the Hawks have completed their investigation," he said.

Xulu dismissed Seretse’s allegations as hearsay, adding that it was interesting that the allegations coincided with a court date in which the matter between the department and Seretse’s company would be heard.

He said Seretse began his “defamation campaign” during the case between Willjarro and the department.

Read more on:    saftu  |  hawks  |  jacob zuma  |  corruption allegations

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