Fed-up Mpumalanga conservationist Fred Daniel has obtained an interim protection order and a warrant of arrest against Premier David Mabuza following a decade-long stand off with the government over alleged sabotage of his tourism business.
The order against Mabuza comes two months after Daniel had also slapped Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority executives with a protection order – for allegedly harassing and sabotaging him by withholding permits and licences to keep the Big Five and other predators. The papers were delivered on Mabuza’s office on Wednesday.
Daniel owns an eco-tourism and game reserve business, the Cradle of Life, in Badplaas. Cradle of Life does scientific research and educational projects that aim to protect biodiversity. He also breeds endangered species such as tigers as well as white lions, brown lions, pumas and hyenas.
Daniel and his business partner – former ANC treasurer-general and Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa – have been meeting Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority officials in a mediation process since last week to settle their disputes, which include a R1.2 billion lawsuit, out of court. The mediation process was postponed without a resolution to the litigation, but the parties have agreed to work together for the sake of tourism development.
However, Daniel said he discovered during the mediation process that Mabuza was “playing a dirty hand behind the scenes”, hence his decision to get the protection order and warrant of arrest in case he violates the order. Daniel claimed that a state advocate had been threatening him with Mabuza and warning him of consequences.
“There’s no point in getting protection against civil servants while the person above them is issuing the wrong instructions. My fight is not against government or the ANC but a handful of corrupt officials,” he said.
Mabuza was elected ANC deputy president in December, but he remains Mpumalanga premier unless things change at national level with President Jacob Zuma leaving before his term expires next year.
“I’m not playing around anymore. I’m tired of politicians destroying people’s businesses. Mabuza can now explain to the whole of South Africa what gives him the right and the use of all state machinery, resources and civil servants to harass an investor like me,” he said.
Mabuza is expected to appear in the Carolina Magistrates’ Court on February 19 to oppose the interim protection order. If he fails, the order will be made permanent, and he will face trial and jail time if he violates its conditions.
In an affidavit accompanying the protection order application Daniel paints a picture of his struggles and an acidulous relationship with Mabuza and the tourism and park authority.
“Three months after Mabuza became ANC chairperson [in 2008], the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority declared war on me as a private citizen,” Daniel said.
He said that the authority tried to reach a settlement with him in 2009, but Mabuza was reluctant.
“Instead of supporting this initiative, the respondent [Mabuza] presided over a well-orchestrated assault campaign on my life, property, business, staff and family, which includes my 84-year-old mother,” he said.
Daniel said that the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority’s ultimate aim was to drive him out of Great Nkomazi River Valley by assassinating his character, placing him on a hit list and sabotaging his business.
He said that he tried to engage with Mabuza for the last time in April last year.
“The respondent vowed that the things he will do when he becomes deputy president of the ANC was to come after me to expropriate my land and business without compensation,” Daniel said.
Mabuza’s spokesperson Zibonele Mncwango confirmed that Mabuza was served with the interim protection order.
"However, we dispute the wild allegations that the Premier is behind the so-called campaign to drive Frederick Daniel out of business and off his land. The premier will surely challenge the court interdict because the reasons advanced in this order are baseless,” Mncwango said.
He said Mabuza's legal team was assessing the matter and it was been viewed as abuse of court processes.
"Any insinuations that the Premier, both in his government and political role has influenced the decisions of government institutions to disadvantage Mr. Daniel are not true. These are malicious allegations against the Premier intended to tarnish his image", Mncwango added.
The order, which City Press has seen, bars Mabuza from harassing or victimising Daniel. It also says Mabuza should not:
• Engage in verbal or other communication that is aimed to cause any mental, psychological, economic or physical harm;
• Directly or indirectly incite, instruct or induce government officials and land claimants to intimidate, harass or victimise Daniel by any means; and
• Allow civil servants in the course of their duties to falsify minutes, reports or instruct the police to destroy official government documents.
The order also calls on Mabuza to refrain from attempts or action to drive Daniel out of the Great Nkomazi River Valley and to damage his reputation.
The stand-off with the Mpumalanga government, Daniel claimed, began when he exposed the biggest land claims fraud scandal in 2003 when a middleman colluded with Restitution of Land Rights Commission officials to sell private farms for land reform purposes at grossly inflated prices to government.
Farms in the Badplaas area were sold at more that double their price to fictitious beneficiaries. Mabuza was agriculture and land administration MEC at that time.
Since then the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority and various government departments had been frustrating his business such that he also filed a R1.2 billion defamation suit against the authority and various Mpumalanga government departments. The lawsuit is yet to be heard in court.
Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority spokesperson, Kholofelo Nkambule, confirmed that the mediation had not resulted in resolving the litigation.
“However, as a result of the mediation, the roadmap for Great Nkomati River Valley was mutually agreed to between the parties and will soon be implemented through the cooperation of the parties. The roadmap will help benefit tourism and conservation in the area,” Nkambule said.