The Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform is embroiled in a legal dispute over payment with a top lawyer who worked with law enforcement agencies to expose the rot in the fisheries industry.
Barnabas Xulu, who is popular for helping to establish the Friends of Jacob Zuma Fund, is in a protracted battle over R20-million in legal fees with one of the department’s directors-general, Mike Mlengana, who calls himself the “most powerful human being in the ANC”.
In June, B Xulu and Partners Incorporated (BXI) attained a court order to attach R20-million from the department’s accounts, following a fallout on the settlement agreement.
Two payments – one of R2.5-million and another of R17.6-million – were made to the firm following the issuing of writs.
The department has launched an urgent application to retain the money, and the matter is set to be heard on December 13.
Xulu was appointed by the department’s former minister, Senzeni Zokwana,
and produced a “Master Report”, which showed the corruption in the sheries industry.
In his affidavit, Xulu argues that the department’s failure to pay him was a result of a personal vende a. “The nonpayment by the applicant is not as a result of a fees dispute as submitted by the DG [Mlengana] but rather a personal vendetta against myself and BXI given our work with law enforcement agencies to combat the acts of undue influence, maladministration, criminality and corruption within the department, which the DG [Mlengana] is central.”
Xulu says after the court order he received a call from Mlengana in which the accounting officer made an undertaking to pay the firm provided they withdrew the writs and also told him “what you didn’t realise is that you were dealing with the most powerful human being in the ANC”.
In an audio recording, which the Sunday World has heard, Mlengana keeps repeating he is not paying the firm because he thinks Xulu is “Zokwana’s arm” in the fights in the department. In his affidavit, Mlengana said the writs were unlawful and wants them to be set side .
“I am advised that whilst the court order notionally sanctions the attachment of R20-millionfrom the MLRF [Marine Living Resources Fund], the first respondent’s [BIX] writs attached a sum of R49 311 870,82 from three different bank accounts, none of which related to the MLRF or the fisheries management branch of the department.” The department’s Reggie Ngcobo declined to comment.
Mlengana did not respond to questions.
By George Matlala