Fisheries official charged with theft, fraud, extortion, forgery and defeating ends of justice. PHOTO: Supplied/SAPS
Cape Town - A senior fisheries official has been implicated in the theft of confiscated abalone worth more than R20 million, and faces 155 counts of fraud, 37 counts of theft, extortion, forgery and defeating the ends of justice.

These details were outlined in a disciplinary hearing of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) deputy director-general Siphokazi Ndudane last month.

Chairperson of the legislature’s standing committee on economic opportunities Beverley Schäfer leaked the charge sheet. She said the department had yet to take any decisive action against Ndudane.

“It has now been proven that she has blatantly and tragically abetted the illegal abalone trade in the Western Cape which continues to ravage both our oceans and our small fishing communities,” Schäfer said.

According to the charge sheet, Ndudane’s involvement in incidents of abalone theft took place on September 25 last year, January 8 and May 15.

Daff financial management acting chief director Nazima Parker and acting chief director Thembalethu Vico were also involved in the January 8 incident.

On November 2, at Daff’s offices in Cape Town, Ndudane unlawfully and grossly signed and falsified documents pertaining to the determination and approval of the 2017/18 West Coast rock lobster total allowable catch, knowing very well that the document had been falsified.

Ndudane is also accused of theft of about R2.3m in 64 payments, through the approval of payments, over the period of October 2016 to December last year.

The payments were made for confiscated abalone stock, but the approval of the payments were not within her jurisdiction.

The stock was the property of the State.

It was argued that Ndudane refused to grant access last year to police to enter the Marine Living Resource Fund storeroom and therefore defeated the ends of justice.

The purpose of the police’s visit was to conduct verification checks of alleged stolen boxes of abalone. On September 25 last year, Ndudane failed to inform the police of the theft or loss of abalone with an estimated value of R3.6m belonging to the department.

Ministry spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana said Ndudane was suspended for 60 days in July.

“Her suspension was then extended. The department will determine a date for her disciplinary hearing. She is still on full pay,” he said.

Schäfer said she had written to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to request a formal investigation.

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Cape Argus