About 90 tons of abalone, worth R60 million, have been put on ice while the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF) is caught up in a court battle between two companies.
The Public Protector’s office and the Presidency have also been asked to intervene.
The DAFF initially awarded a contract to Willjarro in December last year, giving it the right to process and market poached abalone seized by the police.
The agreement was that Willjarro would keep 30% of the profit and the department would get the remaining 70%, which it would use to fight abalone poaching.
But as soon as the first monies were paid into the department’s account, Willjarro and DAFF Minister Senzeni Zokwana were served with court papers by a company called Shamode Trading Investments, claiming there were irregularities in the awarding of the contract.
A spokesperson for Willjarro said the minister then announced – without consulting the company – that Willjarro’s contract had been withdrawn and he was doing business with Shamode.
Willjarro challenged the minister in court and was vindicated when the Cape Town High Court ordered the minister to uphold his initial contract with Willjarro. But Zokwana filed papers in the same court asking it to overturn this order, claiming Willjarro was involved with the underworld and was trying to bribe its way into getting the contact with the department.
In turn, allegations against Zokwana and his deputy director-general, Siphokazi Ndudane, include corruption and bribes involving millions of rands and collusion with a Chinese mafia boss.
The Citizen is in possession of an affidavit made by Willjarro owner Gershom Ramazan in which he claimed that Deon Larry, the owner of Shamode, had told him the abalone project was a way of getting Chinese money on the black market into the system in exchange for money to acquire property.
Ramazan told the police that Larry, his wife and his daughter own between 80 and 100 properties.
Zokwana’s spokesperson, Bomikazi Molapo, did not want to comment.