Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza has threatened to lay criminal charges of perjury and pursue defamation action against conservationist Fred Daniel who obtained an interim protection order against him on Wednesday.
Mabuza has also accused Daniel of plagiarising an affidavit that former ANC treasurer-general and Mpumalanga premier, Mathews Phosa, used in a legal matter against him.
Daniel and Phosa are now business partners at the Cradle of Life in Badplaas, which conducts scientific research and educational projects that aim to protect biodiversity.
Cradle of Life also breeds endangered species such as tigers as well as white lions, brown lions, pumas and hyenas.
Daniel obtained the protection order at the Carolina Magistrate’s Court after he and Phosa were involved in a mediation process with the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA).
This was over disputes that led Daniel to launch a R1.2 billion civil claim against various departments after he could not establish a nature reserve because the MTPA did not give him permits.
He alleged that Mabuza had threatened to expropriate his land and businesses when he became ANC deputy president.
Daniel also obtained a protection order against MTPA executives two months ago.
Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, denied in a strongly-worded statement that the premier had ever met Daniel.
“The frivolous allegations that Mabuza threatened him that he will deal with him once he (becomes) ANC deputy president is utter nonsense. Mr Mabuza has never met nor spoken to Mr Daniel who is apparently a serial accuser,” Mncwango said.
“Mr Mabuza will lay perjury criminal charges with the SA Police Service in Johannesburg so that the matter should be investigated by the police from outside the province of Mpumalanga. We know Mr Daniel will be exposed as a liar and abuser of our court systems to defame innocent people,” he added.
Mncwango said Mabuza was looking forward to the hearing on February 19 when he will oppose the interim order.
“He is sure that the frivolous claims of Mr Daniel will be exposed as well as the fact that he perjured himself and abused the court,” said Mncwango.
“Mr Mabuza will then follow with defamation action as he will not tolerate anyone to besmirch his good name for a personal or political agenda. Mr Daniel and Phosa will not succeed to blackmail Mr Mabuza to interfere with the work of the officials/experts from MTPA,” he said.
Mncwango said that Mabuza did not even know the full facts of the dispute Daniel had with the MTPA.
The relevant respondents, Mncwango said, should have been the MTPA, the MEC concerned, the Department of Finance and Economic Development and/or the Mpumalanga provincial government.
Daniel was not available to comment.
“We now understand why Mabuza’s name has personally been targeted and smeared because of Mr Phosa’s involvement and political agenda,” he said.
Phosa said he had been Daniel’s advisor for two years.
“I can’t be deterred from doing my job as an attorney because I’m a politician. I think they are desperate. I can represent anyone,” he said.
Phosa and Mabuza have a sour relationship –
Mabuza sued Phosa for R10 million in 2016 after the former ANC secretary-general sent a purported document that alleged Mabuza was an apartheid spy to Luthuli House.
At the centre of this case was Phosa’s former butler, Jan Venter, who said that he saw Phosa drafting the report at his house in Hazyview.
The North Gauteng High Court found Venter to be an unreliable witness following revelations that he had also turned against Mabuza and claimed that he was paid to lie.
Phosa won the case in May last year.