The Hawks are investigating an alleged R1 million bribe paid to former President Jacob Zuma by an abalone dealer in the Western Cape. This comes as after a number of Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) employees were arrested for abalone poaching.
Convicted child molester Deon Larry apparently paid Zuma R1 million in 2016 to ensure DAAF Minister Senzeni Zokwana remained in his Cabinet. City Press reports that in an affidavit deposed at the Lyttelton Police Station in Centurion in December, businessman Chaile Seretse claims Zokwana, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and agriculture department deputy director-general Siphokazi Ndudane also received a R300 000 bribe from Larry.
The publication quoted Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi as saying it was investigating the allegations. “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, CEO of abalone processing company Willjarro, claims the bribes were paid so that Ndudane, James Booi and Fryman Baatjies, who are all involved in the abalone industry, could keep Zuma from reshuffling Zokwana in the hope that the minister would carry out their “transformation agenda”. This would include raising R30 million for the ANC through a fisheries project.
Pieter van Dalen, the opposition Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said the bribery investigation “is not only the latest evidence of a corrupt enterprise that Zuma presided over but exposes the murky world of abalone poaching which has reached crisis levels, especially in the Western Cape.”
He 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. The DA will write to the Minister of DAFF, Senzeni Zokwana, asking that he commits to firm plan on how his Department will open the sale of confiscated abalone to public and Parliament scrutiny.
“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.
“A first step in stopping the illegal trade in abalone will be to bring back green courts. This will ensure that criminal cases are dealt with swiftly and offenders are stopped from further fuelling criminality in the sector. The DA believes that in order to stop criminality in the abalone sector, it is vital that an open and transparent system is instituted as a matter of urgency, starting with the sale of confiscated abalone,” van Dalen said.
The alleged bribery comes after nine fisheries officials from Gansbaai were arrested on 5 March in connection with abalone poaching. The officials allegedly colluded with abalone poachers by illegally selling back seized abalone and escorting illegal abalone shipments.
The nine appeared in court along with eight abalone syndicate members on 7 March 2017, facing charges ranging from racketeering, corruption and defeating the ends of justice.
Meanwhile, last week five suspects who operated an illegal abalone enterprise were given hefty sentences by the Cape Town High Court. Various plants were raided and abalone worth over R21 000 000 was seized and 18 suspects were arrested and brought to Court.