Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Has a Fishing Company Been Hijacked?

We are all no doubt familiar with the now infamous hijacking of Kalahari Resources by Sandile Majali (previous funder of the ANC with our taxes) and two of his partners who appear to have been mental patients. It would now appear that with the help of certain leading ANC members in the Western Cape, a black owned Hout Bay fishing company has now also been hijacked. The story goes as follows.

In early 2009, the directors of Greys Investments Ltd approached Feike for assistance in attending to certain regulatory and governance matters. Feike agreed to assist on a pro bono basis as Greys Investments Ltd had a 2 ton lobster quota but also had 197 shareholders (12 of whom are now deceased). Greys Investments Ltd had previously been mismanaged by a series of boards with the result that by the time the shareholders met in Hout Bay in 2008 and elected the current board of directors, Greys could not uplift its fishing permit as it owed the SA Revenue Service (SARS) more than R80 000. No fishing permit meant that it could not fish which meant no income.

As recently as 4 weeks ago, Greys was unable to secure its tax clearance certificate as discussions continued with SARS regarding a re-payment plan. This all the while as 185 shareholders awaited some income as shareholders of a fishing company allocated a long term fishing right.

On 26 October 2010 Mr Maxwell Moss of the ANC Fishing Desk announced to a meeting of fishermen in Hout Bay that the ANC had assisted Muriel Davids (aka Marianne Brown, a former director of Greys accused of mismanaging company funds who was replaced as a director by shareholders) get "her" quota back. The fishers at the meeting raised serious concerns about this as Muriel Davids has no connection to the Hout Bay community as she lives in a wendy house in Darling and works in a fish shop which should have ordinarily excluded her from getting a fishing right as she is not reliant on fishing. So how did Ms Davids wangle a 2 ton lobster quota?

On 27 October 2010, Feike consulted the west coast rock lobster inter-area schedule to determine how the ANC could have legally "given" Ms Brown/Davids her quota back. The inter-area schedule indicated that Greys' lobster quota was now held by a close corporation called MAB & Sons Commercial Fishing CC (2009/053271/23). MAB is the acronym for Marianne Brown - the acronym for Muriel Davids would either have been MUD or MAD. Davids is the sole member of MAB and has no access to a fishing vessel or any fish processing or marketing capabilities. She appears to be nothing more than a front or paper quota which is unlawful under our fisheries laws.

Feike then contacted the Department of Fisheries and was informed that Greys' fishing quota was transferred out of Greys to MAB on the authorisation of the Deputy Director-General of Fisheries in September 2010. It would appear on the face of it that officials at Fisheries based their decision on the fact that there was a resolution signed by the shareholders authorising the sale of shares and the transfer of the fishing right from Greys to MAB. In return MAB apparently paid each shareholder R1000 or a total of R185 000 although the conservative market value of the lobster quota is in the region of about R600 000.

Feike then proceeded to canvass as many of the shareholders of Greys to determine whether they did in fact sign the resolution and whether they received their R1000 payment. We requested every shareholder to acknowledge their response in writing and to append their signature next to their response. Of Greys' 185 shareholders, more than 90 confirmed in writing or verbally that they had not attended any special or general meeting of Greys where a resolution could have been lawfully taken to dispose of Greys' lobster quota; they had not signed any resolution; and they certainly had not received a R1000 for their shares. Indeed, Ms Davids, living in a wendy house in Darling and working at fish shop, could certainly not afford to pay R185 000 to the shareholders of Greys. Ms Davids' own mother and sister (as shareholders of Greys) have also confirmed in writing that they did not consent to the sale of their shares and neither did they receive a R1000 for their shares.

The conclusion must be that Marianne Brown (aka Muriel Davids) has acted unlawfully and perhaps even criminally by forging the signatures of 185 poor Hout Bay fishers and dispossessing them of their quotas by submitting a falsified transfer of fishing right application under section 21 of the MLRA. But did she act on her own or with the assistance of others? Chatting with Davids, it would be immediately apparent that she could not have concocted this scheme on her own.

So what role did the ANC Fishing Desk play? Why did Maxwell Moss state to a meeting of local fishers that the ANC had assisted Ms Davids/Brown get her lobster quota back and how does the ANC get to do this? Moss even admitted to the Sunday Times that the ANC Fishing Desk did help Davids get "her" quota back. And what role did DAFF officials play in the hijacking of the Greys lobster quota which has denied 185 black fishers their right to benefit from a national resource? Perhaps most importantly, will the ANC and DAFF now stand up and assist the 185 shareholders (as the lawful and legitimate holders of the lobster quota) get their quota back?

We will be monitoring this closely. We expect an apology from the ANC Fishing Desk and an investigation by Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson to determine if her officials acted unlawfully and on instructions from the ANC Fishing Desk.

See the Sunday Times for more -

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