Former president Jacob Zuma is being investigated by the Hawks for allegedly accepting a R1m cash bribe from a Western Cape abalone dealer in exchange for keeping Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana in his Cabinet.
In an affidavit deposed at the Lyttelton Police Station in Centurion in December, businessman Chaile Seretse further alleges that Zokwana, union federation Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and agriculture department deputy director-general Siphokazi 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.
“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.
Seretse, the chief operating officer at abalone processing company Willjarro in Gaansbaai, alleges that the bribe was orchestrated by Ndudane, James Booi and Fryman Baaitjies to prevent Zuma from removing Zokwana from his Cabinet shortly after the local government elections in 2016. Booi and Baaitjies, who are also based in Gaansbaai, have interests in fishing and abalone processing.
“I joined the Gaansbaai confiscated abalone processing project in December 2016. During the course of the project, it came to my attention that James Booi and Fryman Baaitjies received an amount of R1.9m from Deon Larry,” said Seretse.
“This money was going to be used to bribe the president not to reshuffle the minister … after the local elections of August 2016.
“James, Fryman and Siphokazi did not want Zokwana to be reshuffled because he had a transformation agenda that he was going to implement through them. That would also include raising about R30m for the ANC through [a] fisheries project.”
Seretse alleges that Dlamini used his influence with and knowledge of Zuma and Zokwana to set up the meeting. After that, he claims that, in August 2016, Booi and Ndudane rented a car from the Dollar Thrifty rental company in Durban to drive to Nkandla to deliver the cash to Zuma.
“Sdumo Dlamini was given R300 000 for facilitating the meeting. Siphokazi was given R300 000 from the bribery money as well. Minister Zokwana also received R300 000 from the total bribery amount,” Seretse’s affidavit states.
This week, Seretse told City Press that his affidavit supplemented information he shared with the Hawks last year after he became aware of the alleged bribe.
In his affidavit, he says he “encouraged James and Fryman to come clean and give statements to the Hawks. I facilitated for them to give statements to Brigadier Oliver. Brigadier Oliver is in possession of those statements.”
FRAUD ON ANOTHER FRONT
The allegations come at a time when Larry, a representative of Shamode Trading and Investments, which is owned by his daughter Monique Larry, is locked in a court battle with Booi, Baaitjies, Cape Town-based Advocate Shaheen Moolla and two companies, Global Pact Trading 193 and Quota Holding Company.
In papers filed in July last year in the Western Cape High Court, Larry alleges that Booi and Moolla, in his personal capacity and as a representative of Quota, stole R2.5m from Shamode in an elaborate fraudulent scheme.
He alleges that, on August 3 2016, he handed Baaitjies R1.9m in cash and deposited a further R600 000 two weeks later into the account of Baaitjies’ company, Global Pact Trading.
The money, he contends, was meant as start-up funds for a new joint venture intended to harvest rock lobster along the east coast after obtaining fishing rights from Zokwana’s department.
Larry argues that he bought into the idea because Moolla and Booi led him to believe that the department would give them fishing permits.
In March last year, after the realising the department would not give them the permits, Larry demanded his R2.5m back, claiming he had been defrauded.
But, in responding papers, Moolla, Booi and Baaitjies say the allegation is “outlandish”.
They also question why Larry would hand R1.9m cash to Baaitjies, who was not party to any agreement.
“No reasonable businessperson would pay an amount of R1.9m to an unauthorised person before any written agreement between the parties.”
The three agree that Larry paid R600 000 to Booi’s Global Pact Trading business account, but say it was because he was in business with him.
Seretse says Larry’s court case is a smoke screen.
“He wants his money back. He thought he would be given an abalone processing tender by bribing officials,” he said.
Seretse said the agriculture department had given the tender Larry was eyeing to his company, Willjarro, in December 2016. But the tender, which was to process 90 tons of abalone, is now the subject of another court case because Zokwana cancelled it in January last year, arguing that it had been wrongfully awarded.
In response to emailed questions, Larry said the information was contained in court papers.
“The further intentions of the two gentlemen were unknown to us at the time. They are in the best position to respond to you as to what they did with the money.”
Meanwhile, a voice recording City Press obtained of a recent conversation between Booi and Willjarro chief executive Gershom Ramazan appears to confirm the bribery plot.
Ramazan confirmed the conversation between himself and Booi, but refused to comment further. Booi, who also refused to comment, said he could not listen to the recording as he could not open it on his cellphone.
In the recording, the voice purported to be Booi’s can be heard saying: “I’m sitting in court every day with Larry, with that money for Nkandla and stuff.”
Ramazan can be heard saying: “You know, just on that thing, you know how Deon Larry looks me in the eye, in the face, and he says to me ... and I said: ‘You knew that money was going to Nkandla, why are you putting pressure on these people? It’s not like they ate the money.’ He says to me [that] you and Fryman ate the money, you never gave the money to the president. You never gave money to Siphokazi; even Siphokazi says you never gave her money.”
Booi then responds: “But they know the truth … I’ve got enough on my side to throw them under a truck …Some of the places where we go, there is cameras, bra. That is why I’ve got specific dates in my head, you understand what I’m saying? For instance, there is nothing that stops me from asking [for] the record of the specific date and time on the place where we hired the car. I mean, at Nkandla at the gate, that report is there.”
WHAT THEY SAID
Baaitjies and Dlamini declined to comment. Vukile Mathabela, who received the questions on behalf of Zuma, failed to respond to questions sent to him more than a week ago.
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.
He 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.
Xulu said Seretse began his “defamation campaign” during the case between Willjarro and the department.
“It is as a result of Willjarro’s case having no merit that our clients hold the view that Willjarro and Chaile Seretse attempted to strong-arm the minister, the deputy director-general and even their legal representatives into endorsing their unlawfully obtained contract. Seretse and his associates’ behaviour can only be described as defamatory. Our clients are thus considering all possible options available to them in dealing with Seretse’s defamatory statements, and any person or publication that recklessly publishes same.”
Xulu said that “any and all allegations of corruption are unfounded and Seretse’s defamatory conduct is a mere forum shopping exercise”.
He further claimed that Seretse had gone as far as complaining about the department to Zuma, and complaining about him [Xulu] to the Cape Law Society.