R3.3m haunts Premier Mabuza

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for fraud worth R3.3 mil­lion in a con­tentious land re­form project. Collen Sed­ibe, the pro­vin­cial Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters (EFF) leader, laid the charge against Mabuza at the Nel­spruit Po­lice Sta­tion two weeks ago af­ter re­ceiv­ing a re­port com­piled by foren­sic con­sul­tant Paul O’Sul­li­van into ques­tion­able deals in Bad­plaas, where land prices were al­legedly in­flated by more than 70% over the past decade.

Mabuza was Mpumalanga’s agri­cul­ture MEC at the time busi­ness­man Pi­eter Vis­agie al­legedly ap­proached farm­ers in the area and en­ticed them to en­ter into sale agree­ments us­ing var­i­ous front com­pa­nies.

Vis­agie al­legedly did not have the means to buy the farms but resold them to gov­ern­ment at in­flated prices in 2003 for the ben­e­fit of the Nd­wandwa Com­mu­nity Trust, which, ac­cord­ing to O’Sul­li­van’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, was formed by Vis­agie with bo­gus claimants us­ing fake names and iden­tity num­bers.

Hawks spokesper­son Bri­gadier Hang­wani Mu­laudzi con­firmed that a case was opened but de­clined to pro­vide fur­ther de­tails.

“We can con­firm that there is a case of al­leged fraud be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, which is re­lated to a land claim. This mat­ter is still un­der way. It will be im­proper and crim­i­nal to di­vulge any in­for­ma­tion into the pub­lic sphere be­fore in­ves­ti­ga­tions are com­pleted,” said Mu­laudzi.

O’Sul­li­van’s re­port states that six farms were trans­ferred to the Nd­wandwa Com­mu­nity Trust. Govern­ment paid R25 mil­lion for the farms, R15 mil­lion more than the ask­ing prices amounted to.

O’Sul­li­van said all farms in Bad­plaas should not have been bought un­der the Land Resti­tu­tion Act be­cause white farm­ers set­tled in the area in the 1870s. The act ben­e­fits only com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als dis­pos­sessed of their land on or af­ter June 19 1913, when the Na­tives Land Act was passed.

Mabuza has been drawn into the mat­ter be­cause Vis­agie ap­proached him in 2008 to com­plain that the Com­mis­sion on Resti­tu­tion of Land Rights had un­der­paid him. Mabuza then or­dered a joint task team con­sist­ing of of­fi­cials from his de­part­ment and the com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate Vis­agie’s com­plaint.

The joint task team found that Vis­agie was owed R3.3 mil­lion on some prop­er­ties he sold to the com­mis­sion for the ben­e­fit of the Nd­wandwa Com­mu­nity Trust be­cause ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture was ex­cluded when the prop­er­ties were val­ued.

Mabuza’s spokesper­son, Zi­bonele Mncwango, said that land claims had not been Mabuza’s com­pe­tency.

“Link­ing the pre­mier with things that were not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the MEC is un­founded and ma­li­cious. If, how­ever, there were any dis­crep­an­cies in the process of claim­ing the land at that time, [he] would be more than will­ing to look into the mat­ter,” said Mncwango.

O’Sul­li­van found: “The task team claimed to have car­ried out a com­pre­hen­sive and in-depth in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this his­toric case ... It is patent that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was noth­ing more than fraud, as it failed to dis­cover that the land was set­tled by white, Afrikaans farm­ers in the early 1870s and could there­fore not be land that was sub­ject to resti­tu­tion claims.”

City Press has a copy of the task team’s re­port and a let­ter Mabuza signed on Jan­uary 6 2009 in which he per­suaded the then Mpumalanga land claims com­mis­sioner, Tumi Se­boka, to pay Vis­agie.

Mabuza wrote: “The dif­fer­ence be­tween the amount due, in­clu­sive of ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture and equip­ment, against the amount paid to­tals R3 347 629.

“It is the MEC [sic] con­sid­ered opin­ion that the [com­mis­sion] needs to ren­der this pay­ment due …” he added.

Vis­agie de­nied all of O’Sul­li­van’s al­le­ga­tions, in­clud­ing that he formed a fic­ti­tious trust and in­flated prices or lodged an in­valid claim.

“I’ve been busy with this non­sense for 12 years of my life. It’s fine, they can go to the po­lice and we will see if the case will last,” he said. “I paid for ev­ery farm and I wasn’t a val­u­a­tor [qual­i­fied] to in­flate prices. Every al­le­ga­tion is false.”

O’Sul­li­van told City Press last week that he had in­ves­ti­gated the Bad­plaas land claims for two years and sub­mit­ted his re­port to Ru­ral Devel­op­ment and Land Re­form Min­is­ter Gugile Nk­winti.

Nk­winti’s spokesper­son, Linda Page, did not re­spond to ques­tions re­lat­ing to what the min­is­ter in­tended to do about O’Sul­li­van’s re­port.

The Bad­plaas land scam was ex­posed by con­ser­va­tion­ist Fred Daniel, who was buy­ing land to es­tab­lish a game re­serve.

Former land af­fairs min­is­ter Thoko Didiza com­mis­sioned a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the trans­ac­tions but the out­come of that was not made pub­lic. No one was charged in con­nec­tion with the scam.

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