National

Bosasa shuts down prawn farm

Adriaan Basson, Yolandi Groenewald

The company at the centre of a prisons tender fraud probe suffered another knock last week when it had to close down its controversial prawn farm.

The company at the centre of a massive prisons tender fraud probe suffered another knock last week when it had to close down its controversial prawn farm due to a lack of funding.

SeaArk Africa, that is 100% owned by Bosasa Operations, closed its doors last week after a tempestuous three years trying to establish a prawn farm in the Coega industrial development zone.

The Mail & Guardian exposed the project early last year for having a convicted embezzler, the American David Wills, as its international business associate and for lying about an alleged R70-million Saudi Arabian deal.

SANParks also raised serious concerns over the threat a prawn farm would pose to the marine area adjacent to Coega.

SeaArks’s chair and spokesperson Papa Leshabane informed the company’s remaining 40 employees last week that they would be retrenched because of the decision to shut down.

In a statement issued afterwards, Leshabane blamed a lack of investment and Eskom’s escalating electricity tariffs for killing the investment.

‘The proposed business model is extremely sensitive to power inputs and based on recent increases and further expected escalations, we have no choice but to suspend our investment plans ... The project is no longer sustainable since Eskom announced their recent increases and further intended increases.”

The M&G recently learned that Bosasa was struggling to obtain funding for its projects.

Apart from the correctional services contracts that were probed by the Special Investigating Unit and is the subject of ongoing litigation, the company has numerous other government contracts, including managing the Lindela repatriation camp for the Department of Home Affairs and running youth centres for provincial social welfare departments.

The M&G previously reported that Bosasa’s chief executive Gavin Watson originally obtained funding from American investors to start the SeaArk pilot plant.

He was linked to them through a shadowy non-profit organisation, the International Foundation for the Conservation of National Resources (IFCNR), which has been widely attacked by the green movement for opposing the humane treatment of animals.

IFCNR’s main donors include the National Trappers’ Association, the Japan Whaling Association, the International Fur Trade Association and controversial agriculture multinational Monsanto.

The NGO’s biggest backer is the world’s largest restaurant group, Darden Restaurants, which owns the United States’s Red Lobster chain. It was unclear if SeaArk would’ve exported prawn from Coega to the Darden group.

Coega also reported SeaArk to the provincial authorities for the alleged unauthorised mining of dunes.

The company recently suffered a blow when its lead scientist, the Australian Bill McGraw, resigned after allegedly falling out with the company’s owners over intellectual property rights issues.

Said an inside source: ‘Bill was the brain behind SeaArk. They could not have done it without him.”
McGraw was allegedly unhappy about the ownership of the project’s intellectual property rights and proceeded to institute legal proceedings against SeaArk.

According to Leshabane’s statement the prawn farm model is an ‘international success” and they intend ‘keeping our options open regarding a site closer to warmer waters elsewhere or exploring alternative forms of energy generation”.

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