Senzeni Zokwana's adviser devised controversial fisheries deal

02 October 2016 - 02:00 By Bobby Jordan

A prominent adviser to Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has emerged as the alleged "mastermind" behind a controversial fisheries deal worth about R100-million. Lawyer Shaheen Moolla is representing Zokwana in a court showdown with fishing industry stakeholders who claim the horse mackerel "experiment" is a sham.However, documents before court reveal Moolla helped devise the original proposal - submitted by businessman James Booi in 2012 - in his capacity as a private fisheries consultant.story_article_left1Moola's involvement in the court rumpus therefore constitutes a conflict of interest, according to an affidavit by industry spokesman Johann Augustyn - a charge that Moolla rejects.Zokwana insists he had nothing to do with awarding the controversial 8,000-ton experimental permit to Booi's company, Global Pact Trading 193, but he has since defended the move in parliament, claiming it is partly aimed at transforming the "lily white" commercial fishing sector.Industry sources believe the "experiment" is a thinly veiled attempt to enrich a politically well-connected newcomer, rather than genuine transformation.Moolla's link to the horse mackerel plan is detailed in an affidavit submitted by Augustyn, a former chief director of fisheries research who is now secretary of two fishing industry associations.Documents attached to Augustyn's affidavit show Moolla helped Booi draft the original proposal for the horse mackerel experiment in 2012. The 30,000-ton plan was rejected, first by Augustyn in his then capacity as chief director of research, and later on appeal by then minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.A modified plan was approved by Zokwana after he came into office, and after he had hired Moolla to serve as chairman of a fishing rights appeals committee, which concluded in May.mini_story_image_vright1"Global's first and second applications were in all material respects identical," Augustyn said in his affidavit.The experimental permit was approved by Zokwana's delegated official against the advice of the department's scientific working group and amid growing concern about the state of the horse mackerel resource.When the industry mounted its court challenge, Moolla was hired as legal counsel."He [Moolla] is advising and assisting the chief director and minister in opposing an application for the setting aside of the same right and permit in respect of which he made application on behalf of Global," Augustyn said in his affidavit. "This is inappropriate and reflects a conflict of interests."Moolla hit back this week, saying it was Augustyn who was embroiled in a conflict of interests given that he had previously rejected the experiment.Augustyn denied he had any conflict of interest in the matter: "I had absolutely no motivation at the time of the [horse mackerel] decision to advantage or disadvantage any sector of the industry," he said.However, Augustyn maintains in his affidavit that Booi referred the industry's legal counsel, Peter Edwards, to Moolla as his legal representative as recently as August.Moolla confirmed consulting Booi on "the original application for the experiment", but denied he was directly involved in the successful application.An e-mail between Booi and another fishing industry stakeholder earlier this year, seen by the Sunday Times, was copied to Moolla.In a post on the website of his company, Feike, Moolla said his view on the need to restructure the horse mackerel industry "has long been on record".mini_story_image_hleft2He said "it was no secret" that he had been re-appointed to advise Zokwana in the horse mackerel court case."The minister had sought my services ...because of my previous successful advisory role as chairperson of the 2013 fishing rights allocation process appeals committee."As part of the drafting team who penned the 2005 horse mackerel fishing policy, I had personally drafted the 'objectives' clause ... which mandated the ... industry to re-think the way South African horse mackerel is processed and marketed."Responding to Sunday Times queries, Moolla slammed the allegation of conflict of interest and levelled the same allegation against Augustyn: "As the chief director responsible for fisheries research and development, Johann [Augustyn] steadfastly and repeatedly refused to entertain the Global Pact application despite there being policy grounds for supporting the application."Zokwana's spokeswoman, Bomikazi Molapo, said Moolla "is not employed as an employee by the department or the minister and is free to undertake any private work as he is employed by an independent fisheries advisory firm, Feike"."Neither Feike nor Shaheen Moolla was directly or indirectly involved in the decision to grant Global Pact 193 a permit," Molapo

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