ANC councillor accused of extortion by businesses

‘He always wants cash to avoid a paper trail’

Zacharia Mokoari, a former driver of the ANC’s Dada Morero, and now an ANC ward councillor, is accused of siphoning money fro m contractors in an extortion racket.
Zacharia Mokoari, a former driver of the ANC’s Dada Morero, and now an ANC ward councillor, is accused of siphoning money fro m contractors in an extortion racket.
Image: Facebook

A ward councillor is being accused of running a extortion ring targeting business owners to solicit protection money.

ANC councillor Zacharia Mokoari of ward 3 in Orange Farm, south of Joburg, is allegedly accused of striking fear among business owners in the area, causing some companies to either pay up to continue working or close shop if they refuse to obey his demands.  

There are four active construction projects in the ward.

A road construction project which was meant to start early last month has been delayed, allegedly because of Mokoari’s constant interference and demanding the appointment of companies whose owners he favours or those that are willing to pay him.

A community liaison officer in the project last month applied for a protection order against Mokoari for intimidation and accusing him of not hiring enough local people. Sowetan has seen a copy of the protection order dated April 29th. 

Mokoari also has a chequered past.

In 1994 he was convicted of rape and in 2010 he was sentenced to three years for assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Between 2013 and 2020 he served as a driver of former ANC Joburg mayor Dada Morero, who is currently the MMC for finance in Johannesburg.

Mokoari has denied all allegations against him, citing “peddling of propaganda” by people.

A businessman whose construction company was sub-contracted to build a stormwater system in Orange Farm said he was forced to pay Mokhoari R20,000 in cash over two months after the councillor’s alleged runners intimidated him last year.

“Initially they came to our site office and demanded to check my business papers and qualifications. A few days later we found our gate locked with a different padlock. I then called the councillor and he demanded a payment for doing business there and threatened that he will disrupt our work,” said the man.

He said he allegedly paid the first R10,000 in cash and then delivered the second tranche at the councillor’s house.

“I refused to pay for the third time because I couldn’t keep up. I needed the money to run the business. He did not take kindly to that and we started fighting and he would threaten me,” said the man.

His company left the site and he said he has not been able to get any work in Orange Farm since last year. “My business has come to a halt and I used my cars for a delivery business which is not making me much money,” he said.

In December last year, the Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum said construction mafias were a growing problem in the country, which has resulted in projects worth R63bn being delayed or cancelled because of extortion tactics and disruptions. Since 2020, at least 712 cases were reported, resulting in 722 arrests and 52 convictions.  

Another business owner, who runs a security company in the area, said he has allegedly paid Mokoari over R500,000 since April 2022 until last month when he couldn’t afford to pay anymore. He said he paid between R25,000 and R30,000 monthly to Mokoari.

“People are scared of him. This man would accompany me to the ATM to withdraw money and he always wants it cash to avoid a paper trail. He even intimidates main contractors and tells them who they should hire and sometimes it’s his own company or companies of people linked to him that get the tenders,” said the businessman who wanted to remain anonymous.

A company search by Sowetan revealed that Mokoari has six companies registered in his name.

However, yesterday he said he knew nothing about the companies.

“I had a security company that I gave away when I became a ward councillor in 2021. I don’t have any other company. Maybe someone took my ID and registered a company in my name, I don’t know,” said Mokoari.

Mkoari’s alleged conduct was reported to the local SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) office and to the regional ANC leadership.

Sanco’s deputy chairperson Bheki Pule said he was aware of extortion allegations against Mokoari.

“He is a dictator and interferes a lot in projects and two months ago we received complaints from members of the local business forum who were reporting extortion.

"We escalated this with the ANC and they said they will deal with the matter after the elections. He seems to be getting some sort of protection from higher structures of the ANC. People are fed up with him,” said Pule.

ANC regional secretary Sasabona Manganyi said he was not aware of the extortion claims against Mokoari. 

"I was only made aware of his criminal past recently and I advised that we will deal with it after elections. I was not directly involved when he was appointed councillor, and I'm not sure what vetting process was done on him by the party," said Manganyi.

Mokoari told Sowetan the extortion claims were reported to the party's regional office a few weeks ago. 

"All these allegations are not true. The ANC is dealing with them and I was advised not to comment on the matter. I don't understand why these people are now running to the media. If there is any evidence of extortion against me, I will deal with them after elections," said Mokoari.

He said he declared his criminal convictions to the party before he was appointed councillor.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.