‘A life of abuse by perly king’
Domestic violence, alcohol, drugs marked marriage of poaching mastermind Morne Blignault and his wife, court hears
Pregnant at 14 and working only seven months in her life since she left school, a picture was painted in presentencing proceedings of the former wife of convicted perlemoen poaching kingpin Morne Blignault being in a marriage riddled with extreme abuse.
Testifying in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday , social worker Ayanda Nkumisa – who compiled a detailed probation officer’s report on Marshelle Blignault, 42 – told judge Mandela Makaula that her relationship with her former husband had been one in which he wielded much control over her.
“[Blignault] struggled to maintain a job and abused alcohol and drugs. There was a lot of domestic violence and substance abuse.
“[Marshelle] was often beaten before their children [and] he abused the children as well.
“[Marshelle] was petrified by [Blignault]. He always reminded them that everything belonged to him and that he would take it away if he wanted to,” Nkumisa said.
Although the pair divorced more than 10 years ago, Blignault continued to control Marshelle because she was financially dependent on him.
In 2018 Marshelle pleaded guilty to a charge of racketeering for her role in managing Blignault’s poaching enterprise.
The state claimed Marshelle had managed the finances of the business and personally benefited from the illegal activities, which she has denied.
Marshelle’s defence counsel, attorney Alwyn Griebenow, during cross-examination of Nkumisa, maintained that at no stage had Marshelle bought any assets, including a house, from profits of the poaching enterprise.
“No house was bought with money from the abalone business,” Griebenow said.
Marshelle and Jacob “Japie” Naumann, 34, Frederick “Frikkie” Nance, 24, Petrus “Pietie” Smith, 31, and Willie Nance, 56, pleaded guilty to various charges, including racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resources Act, in August after their case was separated from that of Blignault’s when he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Shortly after the five entered pleas, Blignault did an about-turn and also pleaded guilty.
He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
On Thursday, Naumann said that when he was initially arrested he had intended to turn state witness but was convinced to sign a document stating that he would not do so.
Naumann, who has been in custody for nearly two years, claimed that Blignault had significant control over him and others who worked for him.
“I didn’t have my own free will, I had to adhere to instructions,” he said.
While in custody, Naumann shared a cell with Blignault and Naumann’s brother.
According to Naumann, Blignault told him that if he remained tight-lipped about the poaching he would arrange a lawyer for him and his brother and pay their bail.
Naumann’s brother, Danie Prinsloo, is facing similar charges in a separate trial which is being heard on Friday.
Naumann claimed that when Blignault heard he was going to plead guilty, Blignault had tried to poison him.
The alleged poisoning attack occurred early in 2018.
Naumann claimed Blignault had offered him ProNutro and when he took a bite his mouth, cheeks and neck had swollen up.
“I went to tell the captain and one of the [prison warders] said it wasn’t poison but witchcraft,” Naumann said.
According to Naumann, Marshelle was second-incharge in the perlemoenpoaching enterprise and would handle all the finances, including paying divers.
Sentencing proceedings are set to continue on March 1.