Mokgoro ‘signed off wild animals’ in controversial R100m donation

Job Mokgoro
Job Mokgoro

At least two signatures and a letter addressed to Job Mokgoro link the North West premier to the controversial 2015 multimillion-rand game donation.

Mokgoro was the chairperson of the North West Parks Board when the donation was concluded in 2016.

The donation of more than 200 heads – including white rhinos, buffalo, nyalas and sables – worth more than R100 million was first red-flagged by the Auditor-General.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on environmental affairs later found that the donation was not done according to the book and recommended its reversal.

The donation of the rare wild species to the South African Rare Game Breeders Holdings was one of the eyebrow-raising transactions that happened under former Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s tenure in office.

He was succeed by Mokgoro last year and the latter was widely expected to fix things after Mahumapelo succumbed to pressure and resigned amid widespread protests as angry communities calling for his removal. It remains to be seen how Mokgoro would handle a transaction in which Mahumapelo was involved.

Those behind the approval of the donation

City Press has seen a copy of a document titled “BEE Joint Venture Game Donation Agreement” between the North West Parks Board, the province’s department of rural, environment and agricultural development and Rare Game Breeders Holdings.

A signature believed to be that of Mokgoro is affixed on top of his name on the same document. The date is scratched off with a pen from the typed September 2015 and a new date, February 26 2015, is written on top.

The donation was first approved by the provincial government’s Mahumapelo-led executive committee on March 25 2015. The resolution appears on minutes of the same meeting seen by City Press in which it was agreed that department of rural, environment and agricultural development “should provide guidance on implementation through the development of a costed business plan, approval of game donation policy, selection of beneficiaries, signing of agreements and monitoring and reporting on this project”.

Signs of political pressure

The portfolio committee raised the following in its report on the donation:

- The role played by the member of the executive council (Manketse Tlhape) is questionable and of great concern indeed because she pushed up the numbers of the animals (130 buffaloes, 50 sable antelopes, 50 white rhinos and 15 nyalas), more than the numbers of the wildlife species (50 buffaloes, 20 sable antelopes and 10 nyalas) determined by the then acting manager of ecological services, Wilfred Seitlhamo

- The MEC conceded that the project had not been carried out with due diligence, and the department had made some errors. For instance, it had not initiated an ‘expression of interest,’ particularly when it had escalated the number of game donations to the Rare Game Breeders Holdings.

Meanwhile, there is a letter addressed to Mokgoro from a board member asking him to “authorise management’s submission to start TB surveillance and salvage operation for Madikwe buffalo”.

It is stated in the same letter under “implications” that “costs (of the TB project) to be borne by Rare Game Breeders Holdings as per attached. There should be no political fallout except objections from interested parties with their known objections to the rare game breeders holdings”. Another signature dated January 22 2016 appears on dotted line on top of Mokgoro’s name in what appears to be acknowledgement of receipt.

It is the attached documents also believed to have been sent to Mokgoro that shed some light on what seen to have been a process of levelling the ground for the rare game breeders holdings.

The attached document titled “Madikwe TB management” explains a legal settlement agreement in which Rare Game Breeders Holdings was going to bear costs on behalf of the parks board. It is understood that a game farmer next to Madikwe Game Reserve took the parks board to court after a TB outbreak in their grounds to force them to build stronger fences and attend to the health of their buffaloes to avoid the spread of the disease into the neighbouring game farms.

It is explained in the same document that the role of Rare Game Breeders Holdings in the TB project was “a very tall task indeed”.

In what would to some extent explain the sudden increase of number of animals donated, it is also stated: “Given this additional help, Rare Game Breeders Holdings is also to benefit beyond the initial number of buffalo allocated although the actual number was not set. As a result, what was understood to be a donation of high value game or wildlife to Rare Game Breeders Holdings, now appears to be a partnership for mutual assistance and benefit”. All these are contained in a letter and attachment sent to Mokgoro prior to the signature of the final agreement with Rare Game Breeders Holdings.

Mokgoro fails to respond

Questions were sent to Mokgoro’s spokesperson,Vuyisile Ngesi, Wednesday last week. Ngesi told City Press on Thursday that he was unable to respond on Mokgoro’s behalf as the Premier has been busy. This came after he had asked for more time last week and later saying Mokgoro was having technical challenges and could not access the questions sent by email. 

Mokgoro, who was appointed acting director-general of the provincial administration by Mahumapelo for a year between 2014 and 2014, was criticised after he was appointed premier that he was part of some of the wrong decisions that led the province to a near collapse under his predecessor.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper in September last year, Mokgoro said: “I must be judged for what I did and evidence must be provided.”

In questions sent to Mokgoro, he was asked if he was the signatory on the documents in question and whether he agreed that there were some irregularities with the donation. He was also asked what he was doing after the parliamentary committee asked for the reversal of the donation and nullification of the agreement.

The province’s agriculture department spokesperson, Emelda Setlhako, said when asked about the reversal of the donation and whether her department was working on it: “In the light of the current changes within the department, the relevant authorities are re-looking into the matter on the game donation for adequate response into your inquiry and possible decision making”. Also contacted for comment was Mike de Kock, one of Rare Game Breeders Holdings’ directors, who did not respond to messages sent to him.

Portfolio committee not backing down

The portfolio committee was hellbent on getting their recommendations, among others the reversal of the donation, implemented by the North West province. Committee chairperson, Philly Mapulane, said he has written a letter to the provincial agriculture department MEC, Desbo Mohono, last week asking her to explain how they were going to implement their recommendations.

“The MEC was given until next week to give us their clear plan. I have met her before and she was willing to implement the recommendations and reverse the donation,” Mapulane said.

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July 2020

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