Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has effectively axed his department’s director-general‚ Mike Mlengana‚ the latest salvo in a war over alleged corruption.

Mlengana has been stripped of “all delegations of authority”‚ according to an official internal memo circulated on Monday.

Mlengana confirmed the move on Tuesday‚ saying: “As it stands he [Zokwana] is my boss but I am effectively suspended.”

The move follows Mlengana’s suspension of deputy director-general Siphokazi Ndudane‚ head of fisheries‚ in a row that has spilled over into the public domain.

Mike Mlengana. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Mike Mlengana. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The two have fallen out over several issues‚ most notably a controversial three-tonne abalone deal worth R45m. Both accuse each other of mismanagement and wrongdoing.

The National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has thrown its weight behind Mlengana‚ while the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association is supporting Ndudane.

Zokwana was also opposed to Ndudane’s suspension and last week ordered Mlengana to reverse the decision, which he failed to do. The memo, which effectively withdraws Ndudane’s suspension and puts Mlengana’s future in jeopardy, is seen as a retaliation.

“I have advised both the Presidency and the Department of Public Service and Administration of my decision to withdraw the delegations of authority from the head of department and to review all others‚” Zokwana wrote.

“The precautionary suspensions that the head of department recently caused to be served on various senior officials are hereby withdrawn. All staff on precautionary suspension are to return to their posts.”

In July 2017 Zokwana suspended Mlengana following a damning forensic report he commissioned into the abalone deal.

He was reinstated after a high court order ruled in his favour. Mlengana’s latest ousting came as a key agricultural confidence index dipped by four points in the second quarter, weighed down by uncertainty in the land reform debate.

However, so far there has not been a noticeable decrease in investment in the sector, although the outlook for employment was the biggest casualty, according to the latest survey of the agriculture business chamber and the Industrial Development Corporation.

The capital investments confidence declined by four points to 64. But a reading above 50 indicates expansion.