Specialist maritime services company Smit Amandla Marine says it is losing patience with those who have made allegations that it was involved in corrupt business practices, and is threatening legal action should this continue.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries awarded an R880m contract to man and maintain its four patrol vessels and three survey ships to the Sekunjalo Marine Consortium in December last year, after Smit Amandla had held the contract since 2000.
Smit Amandla Marine took legal action against the department for this, causing the department to cancel the tender and then try to reissue it.
The ships were placed in the hands of the navy in April.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director-general Langa Zita later accused Smit Amandla Marine of corruption, and said that he had laid charges with the South African Police Service.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson placed Mr Zita on suspension in June as her own suspicions of corruption in the fisheries branch of her department increased.
This week, Smit Amandla Marine’s arch-rivals, a consortium led by Sekunjalo Investment and which involves the Western Cape Black Business Council, said it was sticking to its view that Smit Amandla Marine had held the fishing protection and surveying contract for 12 years — in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.
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The Western Cape Black Business Council is also sticking to its claims the contract has cost the taxpayer more than R300m due to its irregular extensions.
Smit Amandla Marine spokeswoman Clare Gomes said the firm had endured six months of unsubstantiated claims levelled against it after it blew the whistle on the irregular awarding of the tender to the Sekunjalo consortium.
"The decision by Smit Amandla Marine to pursue legal action in December 2011 with respect to the award of a vessel management contract to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was not one taken lightly and was based on substantive evidence of tender irregularity and misrepresentation," she said.
Ms Gomes said since then her company had been subjected to unsubstantiated claims, including that Smit Amandla Marine was a fishing company, and that it subscribed to corrupt, collusive and fraudulent business practices, particularly in its service to the state and promotion of the state’s maritime interests.
"Similar unsubstantiated accusations have been made by Sekunjalo Investments as well as the Western Cape Black Business Council, which is an organisation that by their own admission stood to benefit from the award of the vessel management contract to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium," Ms Gomes said.
She said her firm was aware that the release of the public protector’s report into the award of the vessel management tender to Sekunjalo Marine Services had been delayed.
Sekunjalo Investment Holdings spokeswoman Cherie Hendricks said her firm was not surprised that Smit Amandla Marine was trying to deflect attention away from the fact that it was being investigated.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokeswoman Palesa Mokomele said that Ms Joemat-Pettersson would not be drawn into discussion with private companies.