Mabuza victorious in ‘David and Goliath’ court battle
Court lifts protection order against deputy president, but his accuser is not about to give up the fight
Deputy President David Mabuza has scored a court victory in a bruising decade-long war with a wealthy Mpumalanga eco-tourism businessman.
It’s a war that has cost millions of rands, seen farmhouses burnt to the ground and a business virtually destroyed, and involves allegations of abuse of state power by a politician seen by many as one of the country’s most powerful men.
Mabuza’s victory on Monday – secured through the Carolina Regional Court’s quashing of a protection order sought against Mabuza – is just one of many battles that have been waged by businessman Fred Daniels against the former Mpumalanga premier since 2004.
It all started when Daniels blew the whistle on an elaborate multibillion-rand land claim scam.
That scam, alleges Daniels, carried the blessing of Mabuza from the time he was Mpumalanga’s land and agriculture MEC.
It allegedly involved landowners being forced to sell their properties at below market value before the land was sold back to community trusts at inflated prices.
Daniels is convinced that ever since he blew the whistle, Mabuza has been out to punish him by tarnishing his name.
“Even though we lost today and I got a bloody nose, I will not rest. This is about truth and justice. No one should have to endure what my family and I have been through,” Daniels told Times Select outside court.Daniels was speaking shortly after magistrate Sarel Grabe, in a scathing judgment, dismissed his application to have an interim protection order against Mabuza made permanent.
During the war with Mabuza, Daniels claims he has had his farmland set alight and properties destroyed, and endured threats against his and his family’s lives.
Daniels obtained an interim protection order in February to stop Mabuza from allegedly using his political power and connections to harass and intimidate him and sabotage his business.
But on Monday Grabe decided to set aside that order, saying it was clear that Daniels had motives other than exposing corruption.
“In terms of a protection order, full disclosures have to be made by the applicants. In this current matter Daniels withheld two lever-arch files of information. He delayed by six months in giving his affidavit,” Grabe said in his judgment.
“Daniels stated that there were unlawful raids on his property by the MPTA [Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority]. He portrayed himself as an innocent victim who was doing his utmost to operate [his business] lawfully.”But, said Grabe, information had been withheld by Daniels from the original magistrate who had granted the interim protection order.
“That information was how the MTPA had raided his property because of game he was keeping on his property without the necessary permits.”
He said the MTPA had been exercising its mandate when it carried out the raids.
“Daniels clearly misled the court when he said he wanted to operate legally and had been trying to obtain permits.”
Grabe questioned Daniels’s reasoning for obtaining interim protection orders against other Mpumalanga government officials, and said he had used them as tools and mechanisms to achieve certain goals.
“It is clear Daniels has a modus operandi of abusing the law to continue with illegal activities.
“The complainant’s fears for his and his family’s lives are unfounded. Daniels has ulterior motives other than blowing the whistle on corruption and this [interim] protection order is too wide and should not be granted.”As well as the protection order application, Daniels has a R1.2bn lawsuit in the North Gauteng High Court against Mabuza and officials in several Mpumalanga government departments, including the MTPA.
The lawsuit involves the loss of business because the provincial government allegedly refused to grant him permits to operate a luxury nature reserve, marketed as the gateway to one of SA’s most pristine biodiversity areas, between Barberton and Bapsfontein.The trial date is expected to be announced soon.
Daniels said that despite Grabe’s judgment against him, he will not stop his pursuit of justice.
“This is about the broader issue of state capture and corruption. I have been involved in this fight – which includes that for my life and my family’s lives – since I blew the whistle on the country’s biggest land claim scam.
“I am going to appeal the judgment and will use the appeal to expose how the government has been using its full might to chase me off my land and to discredit me,” he said.
Daniels said his story is about how his legitimate business came into contact with corrupt officials who were involved in a land claim racket and who then tried to thwart his business.
“This is nothing more than government-sponsored organised crime and we believe that those behind this have been getting the court officials to stop me exposing the corruption, placing my family and me in grave danger. This is a David versus Goliath.”
Mabuza’s spokesman, Thami Ngwenya, said the deputy president, who was not in court on Monday, welcomed the outcome.
He rejected Daniels’s allegations that Mabuza was waging a campaign against him as “mischievous conjecture”.