State-owned Daybreak Farms: Two whistleblowers summonsed on criminal charges

Daybreak is wholly owned by state-run asset manager the Public Investment Corporation.

Daybreak is wholly owned by state-run asset manager the Public Investment Corporation. Getty Images

Two women with links to the state-owned chicken producer Daybreak Farms have been summonsed to appear in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court (SCCC) this week.

Fin24 has seen court documents which summons Mathaphelo More, 49, and Votelwa Majola, 46, to appear in the SCCC in Pretoria on 25 February.

Daybreak’s chair Lerato Nage referred Fin24 to the Company Secretary Kgabo Mapotsa, who confirmed on Monday that the company had laid the charges against the two women. Mapotsa said it relates to alleged fraud, corruption, money laundering and theft at Daybreak.

“This is an unfolding story and other former employees could still be charged,” said Mapotsa.

More is Daybreak’s former head of internal audit, and was also the company’s technical executive until she was suspended by the board in mid-February 2021. At the time, the board claimed the relationship with her had “irretrievably broken down with no prospects of restoration”. A subsequent letter from the board addressed to her, alleged a “breach of fiduciary duty of care”.

Staff purge

More was one of a string of executives fired by the board. Last year, almost all the group’s senior executives, including its CEO Boas Seruwe, had been replaced amid claims the new board wanted to take over the running of the company. Daybreak’s board denied such claims, saying it was simply acting in the business’s best interest.

An arbitration court found Seruwe’s dismissal was “procedurally and substantively unfair”. It ordered him reappointed as CEO and awarded over R2 million in back pay. Seruwe did not want to comment on the summonses on Friday.

Candy confirmed that his firm represents both Majola and More in the SCCC matter. He said they formed part of a group of individuals at Daybreak Farms who last year blew the whistle on alleged poor corporate governance and corruption at Daybreak against most of the current board.

“However, the summons was irregularly served as it is less than 14 days before the appearance. We have advised [the State] that we will place ourselves on record at court on 25 February, requesting that the matter be adjourned,” said Candy. Furthermore, the matter may need be heard in a different court than the one in Pretoria, in his view.

“It’s not our client’s job to make sure the State does its job. The State should get all its ducks in a row before embarking on criminal proceedings, as our clients have inalienable rights under the Constitution, and the law. The fact the we accepted a defective summons shows that our clients are law-abiding citizens,” commented Candy.

He added that the PIC must still investigate the disclosures made in the whistleblowers’ report, which was shared with it more than a year ago.

“It’s also strange why there is a [such a] delay, as the ink has barely dried on the Mpati Report, which amongst others, recommended the PIC take proactive steps to protect whistleblowers,” said Candy.

Daybreak supplies a wide range of poultry products from its operations in four provinces. It employs about 3 000 workers and slaughters over a million birds a week. It is wholly owned by the Public Investment Corporation, which spent R1.175 billion to buy out the poultry producer – then known as AFGRI Poultry – in May 2015.